Walden; or Life in the Woods – Henry David Thoreau

This book gave words to the things I knew in my youth.

As my years stack up, I have found myself drifting further from what I have always known as truth. Although, this year I have taken it upon myself {and with a great deal of patience from my Mister} to begin moving back toward the purest and simplest beauty which I have always known – the woods. I think it must be accurate to say that we know the most about our reality when we’re small, and when “life” gets in the way of things we begin to forget what it’s most important to know.

When I was a child my parents nearly had to beg me to try to make friends. I had some girls at school that I would sit with at lunch, laugh with, and invite to my birthday parties, but my ideal day consisted simply of myself {and sometimes my one best friend who understood} losing every hour of the day in the woods.

Now in my late 20s, as I read the pages of Walden, the curtains around the room in which I sit show evidence of the Earth’s great lungs breathing broad and heavy breaths which we recognize as the wind. It was a reminder, and a call. It’s a finger pointing in at the irony of my chosen reading spot. But even in this apartment {though I am much closer to home than I’ve been in years} I’m still amidst society and feel the qualities of being vermin infesting this space. We are all much too close together.

Truth be told, this isn’t my first viewing of the book. I earned my degree in English which, of course, included the obligatory study of the classics – Walden was part of that. But it seems to me that though my Professors were well-read and even brilliant scholars, the book may have been partly lost on them. The sections to which they directed our class, the discussions they led on the subject, were completely banal and missing the point. How could a fish teach about a mountain top? How could a city-dweller teach about the woods?

In the first session of one of my English classes in college we began by introducing ourselves and saying where we were from. My turn came, I said my name and my hometown (which only one person in the room had heard of, though we were in the same very small State that I grew up). My Professor had in fact rented my neighbor’s cabin to pass one of her summer vacations. She was awed at the fact that I lived there. She said, “That’s God’s country”. I was immediately struck by that claim and it has stuck with me ever since. Somewhere along the line humanity separated Nature from “reality” and turned it into some sort of a getaway that people with money can purchase for a weekend or a month in the summer. Knowing that she held this sort of removed novelty for the natural world, how could I expect her to understand the communion, comfort, and familiarity that Thoreau describes in his book?

I’d highly suggest your reading it, of course, but more important than turning the pages and learning of Thoreau’s account of the woods would be gaining or renewing your own. Walk amongst the trees where no sounds of traffic can reach and use your eyes, ears, nose, and skin to observe. That’s the only way you’ll know.


2 thoughts on “Walden; or Life in the Woods – Henry David Thoreau

  1. Carl V. says:

    I bought a copy of this last year but have not read it. Something I need to remedy. I grew up in a small housing area surrounded by woods and farmland. Much of my youth was spent playing in creeks and climbing trees and even today I feel most in tune with life when I can be outside, even if it is just sitting on the deck like today, cool breezes surrounding me as I sat and read. I’ve seen several Thoreau quotes of late and am taking all this as a sign that I need to get to reading this.

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