Category Archives: General

Elegiac August

For me, and I think for many, late August always has an elegiac feel: days shorten, school nears and, suddenly, a spray of red leaves appears in a favorite maple. It is also a rich time, of course – harvest alone ensures a feeling of plenty – but summer’s waning shadows it. Still, even as time tightens, I’ve found that I sometimes vanish into late August, entering the woods of experience in one place, and later appearing somewhere, or as someone, else. What happens in the interim can feel like local magic. Here, in compressed fashion is such a vanishing.

August’s Losses

And so I wandered a good time
in the pawed blueberry scraggle
of a northern hilltop
in a field nodding too
with rich goldenrod high grass
and I got
my quart or two
by picking out single berries
small blue globes hung
still on raked bushes
by stepping also
into the pressed stalks
where he paused in each patch.
In this way I lumbered
across the hill’s brow
pale back humped to the sun, and
lost track of the hours lost
the wires’ humming voices
lost the delicate hitched chain
of my own thought
lost too my upright divide
from the life
of bears.

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Filed under Arts, General, Henry David Thoreau, Literature, Living Deliberately, Nature, News and Events, The Roost, Thoreau Quote

Our “Deliberate” Visitors – A Third Gathering of Their Thoughts

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 at Thoreau Farm, we encourage people 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. Every once in a while, we collect selections to share with our online audience. Here are our favorites from our most recent visitors.

 

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~ More nature & less stuff! Nature can calm us, protect us, and completely sustain us. We need to care for it now, more than ever. Thank you for the lessons, Henry! ~ Melissa

~ I turn to observe the natural world and share moments and revelations captured through a lens. ~ Raymond

~ I choose to do what aligns most with whatever force it is inside me that compels me to live at all. I don’t hesitate to do things differently. ~ Abby

~ I enjoy being in a private place in nature. I think about the wonderful mixture of gases that I inhale and the biochemical processes of photosynthesis that produce our oxygen, food and water. As I exhale, I thank the plants by giving them the carbon dioxide that they need to live and to continue to extend life on our unique and beautiful planet. ~ Al

~ By continuously reminding myself to come back to the present with no conceptual framework, looking at things (and people!) with wonder and full attention, and realizing the truth and beauty of the unfettered self. ~ Jonathan

~ I make sure I spend some time every day, to listen to the birds & see what nature has brought to my backyard. It brings me peace & happiness – living deliberately. ~ Amy

~ I try and probably fail more often than not. But keep trying because the alternative is unimaginable.

~ I take long walks & hikes. I write poetry. I reared two sons to recognize the earth as their precious second brother. Thank you for such a wonderful tour of Henry’s birthplace!

~ I bought my grandparents old house and am restoring it. Developers wanted to bulldoze it. I am inspired by not only HDT but those who keep his legacy alive! ~ Charles

~ Appreciating and enjoying the little things in life, which really are the big things! ~ Susan

~ 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

~ If you don’t need it – don’t throw it away – find a home for it – someone’s trash = another person’s treasure!

~ I chose to devote my life to helping my fellow veterans, who struggle with their own scars of war, both seen and unseen. I try to tell and show them that someone cares about them very much, and that we never leave our comrades behind. If I can make a difference in their lives, then I have accomplished something worthwhile. ~ JB
~ Using “old technology” in a new way. Rain barrels, battery powered lawn mower, string trimmer

~ What did Thoreau say, “only when I come 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” – then I spelled it out — & am trying to be “deliberate” now!

~ I try not to judge people that my co-workers don’t like. ~ Mandalena

~ I have changed my life to take care of my mother who has dementia, 24 hours a day. ~ Karen

~ Listen to the birds near – and far away – learn their language – teach this to children & sow seeds for the joy of stillness, quiet, meditation for the Thoreaus yet to come … ~ Carolina

~ I believe Henry D. would smile just knowing how much he influenced my generation. ~ Bob

~ Writing a book to bring awareness to the tragedies of war I experienced as a woman & the simplistic travel around the world I needed to do to get my spirit back & how to enjoy nature & other cultures. Respect the Earth.

~ We sold our home & bought a trailer to see the world. To live deliberately takes courage. To say no to stuff & possessions is freeing.

~ Live in the moment, and be as happy as you can be. Surround yourself with people who embrace sanity.

How have YOU chosen to live deliberately?

To see more visitor responses, see our previous compilations:

http://thoreaufarm.org/2014/04/living-deliberately-again/

http://thoreaufarm.org/2012/11/giving-thanks-deliberately/

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Filed under Environment, General, Henry David Thoreau, Historic Preservation, Living Deliberately, Nature, News and Events, The Roost, Thoreau Quote, Walden

Close Afield

“…the thonder gan romblen in the Heven with that gristly steven, that Chaucer tells of – (the gods must be proud with such forked flashes and such artillery to rout a poor unarmed fisherman…” Thoreau, Journal, August 23rd 1845

Is there a better summer-storm line than Chaucer’s above?  Thonder really does romble. Anyway, I’ve returned to my reading of Henry Thoreau’s first summer at Walden and its resonances with our current summer. Aging August brings me to Thoreau’s thunder-precipitated meeting with John Field, the central episode of what would become the Baker Farm chapter of his book.

The backside of a "romblen" cloud

The backside of a “romblen” cloud

Thoreau observes no niceties when describing Field (“An Honest hard working – but shiftless man plainly was John Field) and his wife (with round greasy face and bare breast – still thinking to improve her condition one day) and “many children from the broad faced boy that ran by his father’s side to escape the rain to the wrinkled & Sybil like – crone-like infant, not knowing whether to take the part of age or infancy…” Even as they give him shelter.

In exchange, however, Thoreau does offer them advice, amplified by the time he writes the episode into the published version of Walden: “I tried to help him with my experience, telling him that he was one of my nearest neighbors, and that I too, who came a-fishing here, and looked like a loafer, was getting my living like himself; that I lived in a tight light and clean house, which hardly cost more than the annual rent to such a ruin as his commonly amounts to…”

Here, after all, is one of the desperate masses for whom Thoreau intends his life and book as example; here is a test case: “If he and his family would live simply, they might all go a huckle-berrying…” But the test does not go well: “John heaved a sigh at this, and his wife stared with arms akimbo…”

The thundershower ends and Thoreau sets off, retreats, really: “As I was leaving the Irishman’s roof after the rain, bending my steps again to the pond, my haste to catch pickerel, wading in retired meadows, in sloughs and bog-holes, in forlorn and savage places, appeared for an instant trivial to me who had been sent to school and college…”

Here is crisis, I think, of a sort familiar to us all. Just what am I doing with whatever I’ve been given (it is, we recall from Walden’s first chapter, “difficult to begin without borrowing,”) the tools of school in this instance? All this walking and mucking about, he seems to say, to what purpose?

Thoreau’s answer is lyrical and famous. And, for me, only partially convincing. Still, it is hard not to feel the momentum of that answer; it gathers you in: “but as I ran down the hill toward the reddening west, with the rainbow over my shoulder, and some faint tinkling sound borne to my ear through the cleansed air, from I know not what quarter, my Good Genius seemed to say, – Go fish and hunt far and wide day by day, – farther and wider, – and rest thee by many brooks and heart-sides without misgiving…Grow wild according to thy nature.”

The biblical allusions and language underscore the sacred nature of this answer conjured by “my Good Genius.” The “faint tinkling sounds” seem transcendent chimes.

Still, I wonder what you make of this meeting in the Baker Farm chapter and how its questions fit in your lives?

Other note, related (perhaps) in the way it appeared to me when I was not “at work”: a hummingbird moth, humming and hovering in the bee balm – it looked like an infant hummingbird, a third the size of the usual, except…that it had antennae over half an inch long. Antennae, I thought and wondered? It gave the “bird” a goofy sort of Saturday Night Live retro look. Still, it hovered over the flowers gracefully, dipped its long “nose” in tastefully. Clearly a “bird” with flair…then, later after a search of images, a bug (which put me in mind of “the strong and beautiful bug” that appears at Walden’s end). “What beautiful and winged life.”

images

Later, two pileated woodpeckers (a pair?) only 10 feet away (briefly, of course, as they flew up and off issuing their wild laughter).

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Filed under Environment, General, Henry David Thoreau, Literature, Living Deliberately, Nature, The Roost, Thoreau Quote