Category Archives: General

200 Years and Beyond!

Dear Friends,

Henry David Thoreau birthplace

As we come to the end of Henry David Thoreau’s Bicentennial year, I want to thank you for your support in helping to carry Henry’s legacy forward toward the next 200 years.

From left: Thoreau Society president Michael Schleifer, Thoreau Farm president Ken Lizotte and Thoreau Farm director Joseph Wheeler reveal the Henry David Thoreau Forever Stamp at the United States Postal Service special dedication ceremony on July 12, 2017.

Henry’s birthday bash on July 12 was one for the books! Folks from all over came to Thoreau Farm, Henry’s birthplace, to celebrate the 200th birthday of the man who went to the woods to live deliberately.

Festivities included celebrity speakers, a special issue of the U.S.P.S. Henry David Thoreau Forever Stamp, and the launch of our book, “What Would Henry Do?”

“What Would Henry Do?” can be ordered at Amazon.com, The Thoreau Society Shop at Walden Pond, or by your local bookseller.

This exceptional collection of essays features thoughtful contributions from President Jimmy Carter, Gregory Maguire, Frank Serpico, Lawrence Buell, Ed Begley, Jr., Laura Dassow Walls, and many other Thoreau scholars and activists.

Our programs this year included:
Natural History Tours
Mushroom Walks
Author Talks
Children’s Events
Presentations on Walden Pond

Your support allows us to offer free admission, guided tours, and educational events.

Thoreau Farm is the only historic house dedicated to the life and work of Henry David Thoreau. We need your support to keep the doors open and to reach Thoreauvians, old and new, who seek to learn more about Henry, the ethical man who led a deliberate life.

While community generosity in this bicentennial year has been strong, there is always more we can do. Every gift is appreciated. In honor of the Thoreau 200th, with your donation of $200 or more, you will receive a copy of “What Would Henry Do?”, our special tribute to Thoreau’s work. (“What Would Henry Do?” has a retail value of $24.95.)

Donate now by clicking on this link!

Here’s to Henry! Thank you for your support of Thoreau Farm.

Ken Lizotte, President

P.S. If you  have already made your 2017 gift to Thoreau Farm, thank you!

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Free Speech Around the World

By Harriet Martin

The law will never make a man free; it is men who have got to make the law free. – Henry David Thoreau

While on a trip in Northern Europe, I visited the Oslo Parliament building in the capital of Norway. Oslo is the center for government in the country of 5.2 million people. Scandinavian countries like Norway are famous for their constitutional protections of free speech. Norway gained a constitution in May of 1814, yet censorship has been banned since 1770. On the World Press Freedom Index, Norway ranks one out of 180 countries. The United States ranks 43. These Northern European countries paint a picture of a land, where Thoreau would look on in favor. Thoreau’s ideas conflicted with the mainstream in his time; the protection for those with new ideas  in some countries today would make him proud. Yet, the range of free speech protections can vary greatly around the world.

Parliament building in Oslo, Norway. (Credit: www.visitoslo.com)

On the negative end of spectrum, the first country we will look at is Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is a country rich in resources, namely oil, located in the Middle East. The Saudi government consists of a theocracy headed by a king, who commands the military forces. Internet censorship is one of the most prevalent examples of free speech limitations in the country. According to Free Speech and Free Press, over 2,000 pages are blocked, including pages on religion, humor and media. The right to peaceful protest, a cornerstone of American democracy, is definitely not followed in Saudi Arabia. Activists in the country have to live with the risk that they could be injured, or in some cases killed by police. 

Another country with a questionable record on free speech is China. A modern superpower with over 1.3 billion people, China will imprison journalists. NPR reports that China has imprisoned a record 199 journalists. In the graphic below, from the website Freedom House, countries are ranked by their level of freedom, which is a metric that takes into account many factors. The prevalence of free speech protections is a good indicator of the stability of a country.

Europe is completely free, when compared to the African and Asian continents. Africa and Asia are the current centers for political turmoil, which is reflected in how “free” they are. As you can see China as well as Saudi Arabia are a resounding “not free.”

Enough virtual globetrotting, let’s turn our gaze to home. In the U.S Constitution, the First Amendment guarantees every citizen very important rights: Freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition. It allows citizens to hold different points of view and is what makes the cultural mixing pot of America so fascinating. For the purpose of this blog, we will look at freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

However, the U.S is not completely free. As mentioned earlier, the U.S ranks 43 on the World Press Freedom Index, down from a ranking of 20.  This low ranking on the World Press Freedom Index is attributed to the Obama administration’s aggressive prosecution of whistleblowers that included eight Espionage Act Prosecutions as well of its investigation of journalists, according to rootsaction.org.

While the world and the United States have changed significantly since the time of Thoreau, it’s more vital than ever that we stand for what we believe in so we can live up to our moniker of  “nation of the free.”

Harriet Martin is a youth blogger for The Roost and a student at Concord-Carlisle High School.

 

    

    

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Eclipsing

“We can never have enough of nature.” — Thoreau, “Spring,” Walden

When the hoopla began to swirl around the arrival of the solar eclipse, my inner nonconformist rose to the occasion. If everybody was going to watch this show, then I decidedly would not. I would not get special glasses. I would not make a cereal box viewer. I would not travel miles upon miles to get closer to the line of totality. No, no, no. I was determined instead to have as average a day as possible.

And yet, I wanted to be outside for the duration of the eclipse. I wanted to be in a natural space. I knew the rules about looking at the sun with unprotected eyes. I wouldn’t look up. Instead, I would look down and around at the effects of the changing light on the earth. I would listen to the world to discover if it was temporarily different. I would focus on the setting and on the supporting actors, and not on the event headliners. I would find my own way to have a unique experience.

So I chose to spend two hours doing some long-overdue maintenance in my own yard. I pulled a few weeds and I trimmed a few bushes and trees, even as the sun and the moon fell into alignment behind my back. I cocked my ears and thought I heard a special quietness. Very few birds sang, and only the occasional crow called. Then again, I didn’t know what their normal routines were for a typical sunny afternoon in August. Maybe the landscape was always this quiet. I clipped a few more errant branches as the minutes passed.

When the yard got shady and the air felt cooler, I marveled at the change. But it was too early in the process, and it was only because a cloud had passed overhead. The sunlight came back even stronger, afterward. I dragged my weeds and cut branches to a back corner of the yard.

Gradually I heard the voices of folks in the neighborhood who were standing outside, taking in the view. They talked amongst themselves and ooohed and aaahed at the proper moment, when we finally got 75% coverage of the sun. There was a little more shade in my yard then, but not much more, and not for long. And I was slightly disappointed when the sunnier spots under my trees didn’t turn into wispy crescents like they were supposed to. Ah, well. I’ve already made many wonderful natural connections in my lifetime. This moment didn’t have to be one of them.

And I did find some small treasures anyway, while I tidied up the place. An abandoned shell of a cicada was attached to a branch in the Japanese maple. The spiky seed balls are beginning to grow underneath the sweet gum leaves. And two lantern plants have suddenly decided to sprout in the needle-duff under the pine tree. “Heaven is under our feet, as well as over our heads,” as Henry would say. It’s true. And these kinds of miracles happen all the time. “Everyday” doesn’t necessarily mean “ordinary.”

cicada

sweetgum

lantern plants

I think it’s terrific that a natural phenomenon fascinated more people than any championship athletic event ever could. This show did involve two round objects. But these we cannot throw, hit, or kick. We can catch them, though. In fact, we can catch their unique light performances nearly every single day. They deserve to be watched more often than for a few minutes at a certain time, once every seven years. And they always offer their best magic for free.

So I ask: What are you eclipse-watchers doing today? You can keep the momentum going, you know. You can watch sunrises and sunsets. You can check out the phases of the moon, in daytime and at night. You can turn your eyes to the earth and see all the marvelous stuff that we’ve got down here. You don’t have to travel to dynamic landscapes or wait for dramatic special events to connect with nature. It is all around us, all the time. Pay attention to it deliberately, and it will reveal its wonders to you.

Yes, you should savor your own recent experience. And I also urge you to continue your own personal nature study every day from now on, in your own neighborhood. Marvels await. You may be able to touch them. And what you find here may eclipse even the eclipse.

“We must go out and re-ally ourselves to Nature every day.” — Thoreau, Journal, December 29, 1856

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