Thoreau’s Journal –December 13, 1859

P. M. – On river to Fair Haven Pond.

My first true winter walk is perhaps that which I take on the river, or where I cannot go in the summer. It is the walk peculiar to winter, and now first I take it. I see that the fox too has already taken the same walk before me, just along the edge of the button-bushes, where not even he can go in the summer. We both turn our steps hither at the same time.

There is now, at 2:30 P. M., the melon-rind arrangement of the clouds. Really parallel columns of fine mackerel sky, reaching quite across the heavens from west to east, with clear intervals of blue sky, and a fine-grained vapor like spun glass extending in the same direction beneath the former. In half an hour all this mackerel sky is gone.

What an ever-changing scene is the sky with its drifting cirrhus and stratus! The spectators are not requested to take a recess of fifteen minutes while the scene changes, but, walking commonly with our faces to the earth, our thoughts revert to other objects, and as often as we look up the scene has changed. Now, I see, it is a column of white vapor reaching quite across the sky, from west to east, with locks of fine hair, or tow that is carded, combed out on each side, – surprising touches here and there, which show a peculiar state of the atmosphere. No doubt the best weather-signs are in these forms which the vapor takes. When I next look up, the locks of hair are perfect fir trees with their recurved branches. (These trees extend at right angles from the side of the main column.) This appearance is changed all over the sky in one minute. Again it is pieces of asbestos, or the vapor takes the curved form of the surf or breakers, and again of flames.

But how long can a man be in a mood to watch the heavens? That melon-rind arrangement, so very common, is perhaps a confirmation of Wise the balloonist’s statement that at a certain height there is a current of air moving from west to east. Hence we so commonly see the clouds arranged in parallel columns in that direction.