Category Archives: News and Events

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

Small Mountain Wandering – of forests, mohawks and copperheads

“…this time we chose the right hand or highest peak – and soon my companions were lost to my sight behind the ver retreating mountain ridge   over huge rocks loosely poised I climbed a mile or more – still edging toward the clouds…” Thoreau, Journal – Fall 1846

Thoreau’s summer of ‘46 was filled with mountains; his journal is rife with them – New Hampshire’s high peaks and Maine’s wild ones. In late summer, Thoreau was drawn north to the big woods and uplands of Maine. His second summer at Walden had brought both heat and, I’m guessing, a little flattening of both experience and “experiment.” Some nord-walking must have seemed just the restorative ticket.

Traveling counter-direction to Thoreau, but just as interested in restorative walking, I recently drove south from Maine. In Connecticut on a family visit, I rose early on an August day and, after a quick trip to a coffee shop, laced on my shoes. It was one of those morning’s where the cool air promises September, even as the sun announces an August intent. I figured a few hours of trail-time in those early hours would set up the rest of my day.

And so I drove a few miles to a favorite state park and turned into a three-car parking indent striated with tree roots. Sleeping Giant State Park runs about three miles on an west-east axis, and that axis follows the contours of a supposedly recumbent giant, whose various prominences – hip, knee, shoulder – rise some 500 feet above the valley below.

The Giant, tree-softened in sleepy profile when seen from a distance, is hard-boned up close. Along its steepnesses the trails are rock studded with the slough of ridges, and those fractured trap-rock stones are sharp-angled rather than water-smoothed geometries. And along its south-facing aspect, the Giant’s central body is shot also with hundred-foot cliffs; because we are some miles north of the long final moraine that is Long Island, I wonder if those cliffs are where the recent glacier tore chunks of Giant away and carried them south.

Sleeping Giant in profile. photo: Hamden Times

Sleeping Giant in profile.
photo: Hamden Times

The Giant’s other notables are trees – in places oaks, maples, beeches and ashes soar to a canopy so high and complete that there’s almost no understory; in other spots groves of laurels rise like twisting smoke to 20 or 25 feet, where they spread leafily out.

Then there are the sightings: as I ran the broad gravel Tower Road up to the 739-foot high point, two twenty-somethings with buzzed, orange-tinged hair warned me that they’d just seen a copperhead on the path and that thought juiced the day with a little added wonder. Yes, I thought, we are along the northern fringe of copperhead range; yes that’s possible, even though it is improbable (their mohawks undercut somewhat their naturalist creds). “That’s so cool,” I said and kept on uphill, scanning now for coppery movement. I’m not sure what response they were after or expected, but my enthusiasm for the snake didn’t seem a match for it. “Silver hairs running up hills,” their expressions seemed to say. “What to make of them?”

Copperhead on the Sleeping Giant.  photo credit: http://www.geofffox.com/MT/archives/tag/sleeping-giant

Copperhead on the Sleeping Giant. photo credit: http://www.geofffox.com/MT/archives/tag/sleeping-giant

The best Giant loop – run first some years back after a dousing rain that left rivulets on the trails and drops sparkling in the trees – warms up along the lower perimeter of the park and then links two trails that traverse its flanks, running first west to east and then east to west. At its midpoint, this route adds the spike of running up the 600-foot climb to the prominence of the Giant’s left hip (with its rumored copperheads). My trails are, as are all trails on the Giant, color coded, the north flank’s marked by violet triangles, the south’s by yellow, and as I run I often follow the contours with the land sloping up above and away below my intermediate mountainscape.

Being in mid-Giant is the perfect level for focusing on my feet and not on what’s out or up there, the views and speculations that lift the head and bring on stumbles. Here, even – no, especially – amid the jumbled stone, I find rhythm; I step step step along through the big trees and splashed lime-colored light, along through the tumble of the Giant’s reclining body. And as we do wherever we run, I step step step into a country of myth.

Short summary of Giant myth: we come from the sea. And from the south, from New Haven’s harbor, the west-east traprock ridge some 10 miles inland looks like a recumbent being; that view from the coast gave rise to the Giant’s name. But the story returns as many do to those who went over this landscape for thousands of years before us. The New Haven area’s Quinnipiac Indians had a storied geography and a primary relationship with the long fluency of the Connecticut River. It seems also that their land was peopled by walking mountains, in particular one Hobbomock, who was ill-tempered as big beings tend to be. Anyway, Hobbomock conceived of a torment the locals wouldn’t forget; he set out to divert the huge nearby river, thereby disrupting the Quinnipiac’s way of life.

And in answer to their prayers and sacrifices, Hobbomock was finally quieted, given to sleep, where now he offers trails and little glens to those who would see the world at our feet.

Sometimes, the mythic brings us also back to the present.

Yo, look, Henry: it’s a copperhead!

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