Category Archives: News and Events

Blood for the Thrush

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
call-and-response throughout
these woods that some call home.

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

Solar Stuff

While I’ve not had a chance to visit the new solar array at Thoreau Farm, I have seen pictures and gotten notice via the mail. At the same time, even at this relatively lofty latitude in Maine, I’ve been watching nearby houses take on panels, angled, of course, just so to catch the southwestern arc our sun takes. And last year, nearby Bowdoin College completed a solar installation that covers the huge tundra of roof above their field house and hockey rink.

Thoreau Farm Solar

Thoreau Farm Solar

All of this in a state that suffers one of the country’s most regressive governors, and one of the few politicians who might be capable – sadly – matching D Trump mouth for mouth.

Imagine what might happen with a little political light, will and encouragement.

For now, however, I desist with this line of thought and return to panels facing the sun. And, when I turn that way and angle my face likewise and close my eyes, I am reminded of Henry Thoreau sitting for the sunny morning in his Walden doorway “rapt in revery,” and I am reminded also of his meditation on direction for a walk in “Walking”:

When I go out of my house for a walk, uncertain as yet whither I will bend my steps, and submit myself to instinct to decide for me, I find…that I finally and inevitably settle southwest…My needle is slow to settle…and does not always point southwest, but it always settles between west and southwest. The future lies that way to me…

Always sun aware, Henry Thoreau saw its direction as the way of progress, the way to what’s next. And Thoreau realized (favorite Henry verb) that the project of the day was not to make America great again, but to realize the land’s and its peoples’ potential by going forward. He points the way at Walden’s end:

I do not say that John or Jonathan will realize all this; but such is the character of that morrow which mere time can never make to dawn. The light which puts out our eyes is darkness to us. Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.

Thoreau Farm’s solar panels, open like pages to the sun, join with thousands of other new panels/pages in pointing the way forward, in turning light into a better life.

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

Counting Along the Way

Everywhere now in the dry pitch pine woods, the red lady-slippers over the red pine leaves on the forest floor, rejoicing in June, with their two broad, curving green leaves – some even in the swamps – upholding their rich, striped, red, drooping sacks. Journal, Thoreau, 6/5/56

Two hundred and thirty-six was yesterday’s count, and it was a glancing one. I was running and so scanning only one side of the trail, the right side on the way out and then on the way back, and that tally would have swelled had I paused to look more deeply. Still, that’s 118 princesses shod, a good hour’s work, I think.

What was orchid budding when I left for the mountains had bloomed when I returned. It is peak orchid season in our nearby woods, and, unless a searing heat arrives, these seemingly fragile flowers will last up to two weeks, longer than almost any other spring blossom.

I first started counting lady slippers when we lived in Concord and I spent a lot of foot-time in Estabrook Woods. There, they are not rare – sometimes I counted up to 50 along the various paths – but they are no as prolific as in our nearby Commons.

Here slipper-numerics nearly overwhelm. And yet I count anyway. Why, I wonder, is that? Habit accounts for some part of an answer, but there must be more. I don’t, for example, count the equally prized (in my eyes) trillium, which proliferates in my home mountains, even as only a stalk or three show in nearby woods here.

Some of the day's slipper-numerics

Some of the day’s slipper-numerics

Here, I turn to a story about Henry Thoreau:

A posted article in the New York Times on January 16, 2013, (looking forward to spring, I’m sure) chronicled some of Thoreau’s late life work on what might have become the Concord Almanac. Here is professor Charles Davis speaking in that story: “Thoreau was sort of crazed, traveling near and far across Concord to find the earliest flowering species, many of which can no longer be found in the area,” said Charles Davis, a professor of organismic and evolutionary biology at Harvard University. “We don’t ultimately know why he was gathering this data.”

We know that Thoreau had a scientific bent and eye, and that his last years saw that eye sharpened and his appetite for data strengthened. But what I like in this description is the word “crazed.” It is so human in its enthusiasm.

Which, perhaps, is why I count slippers each spring (even as I don’t record my findings). I go “near and far” to see them, counting along the way. Are we not all “crazed” similarly some of the time?

Along the way of the day

Along the way of the day

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