Furnishing Walden a chair a bed a desk The desk came first in 1838 as it became apparent that the hours afoot would be brought here where they could be inked into lines that would circumscribe worlds - local paths, thickets, swamps, birds, insects, plants, the odd groundhog - all these ligaments and lineaments, a sort of puritan golem who would stir drafts later and one by one readers would walk out and be saved for a day and the next day each would saunter out again along those lines and every so often one would not return. He saw so far forward, you wonder if he lived in his world, but then you see him sprawled on the young ice inching out, reading the worm-trail of history in the mud the whole lens of coming winter flexing beneath him and you know from the seep of cold that he was there, and you know now know how you should live. You push back the chair and rock for a moment on the rockers he attached to allow for just this and you turn like a leaf in fall contemplative; it is, this walking motion, the birth of thought its pod opening like last year’s milkweed, its heart-shaped seeds suspended beneath the wisp of white sail as they float forth. All night long on the modified Chinese sedan that is your bed, its rattan hand holding you up, you dream and the small night animals in this patch of borrowed woodland say that you sleep and awaken everywhere at home.
Category Archives: Literature
I sit in my boat on Walden, playing the flute this evening and see the perch, which I seem to have charmed, hovering around me, and the moon traveling over the bottom, which is strewn with the wrecks of the forest, and feel that nothing but the wildest imagination can conceive of the manner of life we are living. Thoreau, Journal, 5/27/41
But for a few mosquitoes, these evening hours are the year’s most inviting. Even midnight reminds that this is the season of light; the night sky never wears the tight-fitting wool cap of winter – it is always some wash of gray. The old day filters up still into the western sky until, taking over, the new day promises from the east.
If I lived by a pond, I would be out on it in these hours. Which tend also to be wind-quiet ones. Still, the nearby coves of sea will do, and some evenings, I go there. Whatever has blown through during the day (fronts warm or cold) to stir the leaves and waves dissipates as the sun slips down, and the water goes glassy. Now the only wavelets are those of the vee that trails me wherever I go, announcing my passage, pointing to my presence, predicting my way.
Then, a little offshore, I stow my paddle and float only.
Even the mosquitoes seem entranced. They circle lethargically; perhaps, after a long day of battling winds and biting warm-blooded water-goers, they are sated. I may may have the same appeal as a third dessert. I wave them away half-heartedly; they fly likewise. And then whatever it is that tethers me to the everyday disappears.
The tide ebbs and I float out under a sky shot with light. I am reminded of a friend who likes to take a rowboat out into the middle of a lake and then lie down and watch the sky until the boat’s bumping on some shoreline tells him to raise his head and see where he is. While the boat drifts the mind goes free. But for the shore…
The wood thrush’s is no opera music; it is not so much the composition as the strain, the tone, — cool bars of melody from the atmospheres of everlasting morning or evening. It is the quality of sound not the sequence. Thoreau, Journal, 7/5/52
The wood thrush was said to be Henry Thoreau’s favorite bird – he called it “the finest songster in the grove” – and its dependency on deep woods mimics his nicely. Whenever I hear a thrush, I know that I’ve made my way to the woods-world, to a fullness of forest; I am beyond the margin. Here then is one such walk.
Blood for the Thrush
Morning walk and
the sanguinaries gather
as if I were an offering; still,
I figure a thimbleful’s
fair trade for this liquid
trill, and I give
to those I miss
with my swinging cap
equivalent to a horse’s tail
in its constancy and futility.
In deep, I reach
a place where four songs
overlap, a rippling
these woods that some call home.