Living Deliberately, Again

By Corinne H. Smith

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” ~ “Where I Lived, and What I Lived For,” WALDEN

At the end of our house tours, we encourage our visitors to consider how Thoreau’s philosophies apply to their own lives. How have they chosen to live deliberately? How have they turned thought into action? To share their answers, guests write their declarations on cards and tack them up on our bulletin board. In the “off season,” we collect selections to share with our online audience. Here are our favorites from our visitors in 2013. (To go back and read the ones from 2012, click here.)

- Ride a bike. The world becomes simpler …

- Listening to the land helps me learn how to live on my own.

- I try to speak up when I think my thoughts will make a difference. I listen to my instincts when I am not sure what to do.

- Realizing the great abundance and blessing I have – by just being aware. I have decluttered and simply given away “stuff,” realizing that relationship with “stuff” is not as important as relationship with people. (G)


- We checked off all we could from our own “list” and have now opened our home to teach about solar power / farm living. We can all do more, but at some point have to share “how” and hope to pass it on.

- We try to eat sustainably for our own health and for the environment. We keep up with current issues and thoughts and occasionally delve into history for insight.

- I try to maintain an open enough mind, so that even those who may cause me to doubt the goodness of humankind, also have something to teach me about my own nature.

- By having a nice walk into the wood of Mendon every weekend.

- I try to stay in the moment, especially by going on nature walks and paying attention to Life! (TR, Waltham MA)

- I teach, always from the perspective of the silenced. “Much Madness is divinest Sense…” ~ Emily Dickinson

- I try to treat others as I would want to be treated and RESPECTED.

- I make sure I find some time every day to listen to the birds and see what nature has brought into my backyard. It brings me peace and happiness – Living deliberately. (Amy, Stoughton)

- I have stopped using plastic where I can – storing in mason jars. I deliberately make friends and spread kindness and positivity. (Karen)

- Take care of the place you live and know where your consumption materials come from and where your trash goes. (Oliwa)

- I turn the heat way down at night without my wife knowing.

- I was an English teacher for 31 years and called my classroom “The Athena Academy.” I taught my students that the goddess of wisdom had gray eyes because that is where wisdom lies: in not thinking in black and white but instead in the infinite shades of gray. This was central to my teaching approach – deliberately echoing some of Thoreau.

- I use my time in ministry with students – helping them mature, grow in their knowledge of God and their values. I find my greatest connections with God through nature and meditation and am motivated to love others and have compassion because most men live lives of quiet desperation. (Corrie O.)

- Run with my dog off-leash through the woods observing flora and fauna, reflecting each night in the wonders I live in. Grow herbs, fruits and vegetables organically with our own compost. (Sandra B.)

- I have chosen a career that is in line with my values and also would meld well with Thoreau’s ideas. I have always strived to live simply with relatively few possessions, and put more energy and intention into human and natural interactions. (Anoush)

- Do what you love; love what you do.

- I am living the life I’ve imagined!

- By staying attuned to the needs, both physical and emotional, of others. By not taking too much, thereby leaving enough for others. “Leave only footprints, take only memories, kill only time.” (MS, Kauneonga LA)

- Live as if today was the last day you had. Absorb as much as you can, enjoy the learning. Make your life and the lives of others more meaningful in a way that better suits your interests and talents. (Jolante)

- What did Thoreau say? “…only when I came to die, to find out I hadn’t lived.” So I thought about what I wanted to be sure to have “done,” “been,” “experienced,” “felt” – and then I spelled it out and am trying to be “deliberate” now.

- I believe Henry would smile just knowing how much he influenced my generation. (Bob M.)

We feel inspired by our friends’ examples. What about YOU, blog readers? How have YOU chosen to live deliberately? Our online bulletin board awaits your input.

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Trail Time Nears

Ten-foot Puzzle

Every mile has its measure
but of course counting’s not the game;
you left the numbered life behind – the price
tags the thumbed texts the ten tattooed digits
of your first phone – for a foot-won world where
for once this ramp of rock offers
easy answer and you can look ahead
into the glacial tumble of stone and
see one two three see four see maybe five
points where your foot will land – first that humped
turtle-rock then that mudded swale (its
soft skim you know is inch deep only) then
left foot lifts straight to the flattop (poles
set to drive down) from which flexed toes allow
you to spring ninety degrees right your boot
canted to forty-five your thigh a coil
and then you soar you bear only air be-
fore settling softly on the tablerock
of step five where there’s no pause where already
the bright wrapping’s off and the land ahead
is yours to puzzle out – solve, solve again.


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On the Move

By Corinne H. Smith

“The geese have just gone over, making a great cackling and awaking people in their beds. … How indispensable our one or two flocks of geese in spring and autumn! What would be a spring in which that sound was not heard?” ~ Henry Thoreau, journal entries, March 28 and April 15, 1852

I remember the first time I heard the calls from a flock of Canada geese. I was waiting for the bus to take me to elementary school. It was a cool morning. I had just walked the length of our gravel alley and had turned down Rohrer Avenue to stand at the intersection. All along the way, I heard the barking of dogs. It seemed to be a distant sound, made up of a lot of voices, a lot of different dogs. More than we had in our neighborhood, that’s for sure. It lasted for longer than dogs usually barked, too. I looked through the yards around me, searching for some activity in the bushes or on the ground that would show me who these odd guys were and what they were up to. And that’s when a movement in the sky somehow caught my eye. It was a line of big birds flying just above the treeline, heading north. As I watched them go, my young mind suddenly put the image and the sound together. Aha! Not dogs, GEESE! I had heard about them. If I had been a cartoon character, I would have earned the honor of having a light bulb switch on above my head.

Here in the lower valley of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania, I hear the sounds of Canada geese on a regular basis. (Even decades later, I still think first of dogs.) Many of the birds stay here all year long. But some must still migrate from one place to another. They traditionally follow the path of the river north, from the Chesapeake Bay to upstate New York. Where they eventually end up, I’ve no clue. Perhaps at a man-made pond next to an office building.

Henry David Thoreau’s drawing of geese, November 23, 1853

Henry David Thoreau’s drawing of geese, November 23, 1853

But other voices are calling from our skies these days, too. Some of the flying lines are made up of white bodies, not brown. Snow geese! I saw them feeding on the ice-covered fields that farmers had just spread manure over, too. They were nibbling on whatever little critters flourished in the natural fertilizer. Good for them. Our snow was melting fast, but the ground was still frozen. They had found a good food source, in spite of the weather conditions.

Then one day last week while I was sitting at my desk at work, I heard a different sound coming from outside our windows. I knew it was something flying. At first I was reminded of the other-worldly call of the sandhill cranes, which I was used to hearing when I lived in the Midwest. But they don’t venture this far east. I opened the window for a closer look and listen. These birds were white but they were huge, and they had black bills and faces. Tundra swans! I’d never seen or heard them before. I confirmed their identity and call with Cornell’s “All About Birds” web site. They were heading for a nearby marshy wildlife management area, where reports said that thousands of others had already gathered. Groups of tundra swans continued to pass over us for the rest of the afternoon. At first, I ran over to watch each one of them, stunned in amazement. Then as time went on, I merely looked over from my seat at my computer, to catch a glimpse of the birds through the glass. Imagine, being “too busy” to stop and watch something I’d never seen before. I quietly chided myself for my sorry behavior. And kept on typing.

Yes, everyone is on the move. They’re all following the path to home. The birds are just the most noticeable ones, and they indeed create a stirring sight. But really, we ALL have the homing instinct. And at this time of year, it seems to move inside of us, too. Don’t you just want to jump in the car or lace up your shoes and GO somewhere? I sure do.

Corinne is scheduled to lead a nature writing walk called “Seeking Wildness” this Saturday, March 29th, from 9 a.m. ’til noon, beginning at Thoreau Farm. Walker-writers welcome.

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