Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Frozen creatures

One of Thoreau’s most endearing habits was his repeated attempt to revive frozen animals that he encountered on his rambles. I’ve found eleven examples in the Journal where he attempted to bring a creature back to life, and three other discussions of attempts by others. The creatures included a striped squirrel (chipmunk), a toad, a tortoise, caterpillars (including the woolly bear caterpillar), dor-bugs (scarab beetles), grasshoppers, pickerel, and snow-fleas. The other day, The Blog of Henry Thoreau featured Thoreau’s unsuccessful attempt to revive a toad that he found frozen on the sidewalk in Cambridge. Here are two more of my favorite examples.
March 15, 1853 There were fewer colder nights last winter than the last. The water in the flower-stand containing my pet tortoise froze solid, — completely enveloping him, though I had a fire in my chamber all the evening, — also that in my pail pretty thick. But the tortoise, having been thawed out on the stove, leaving the impression of his back shell in the ice, was even more lively than ever. His efforts at first had been to get under his chip, as if to go into the mud. Feb. 20, 1860 J. Farmer tells me that his grandfather once, when moving some rocks in the winter, found a striped squirrel frozen stiff. He put him in his pocket, and when he got home laid him on the hearth, and after a while he was surprised to see him running about the room as lively as ever he was.

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