“The delicious soft, spring-suggesting air, – how it fills my veins with life! Life becomes again credible to me. A certain dormant life awakes in me, and I begin to love nature again. Here is my Italy, my heaven, my New England.” Journal – 1/7/55
January does have a way of making us look forward – to longer light, to easing cold, to the whole green future presaged by thaw. Thaw presses us ahead in time and imagination; we shift from our endurance shuffles with their little steps to avoid slippage and our necks pulled in toward bare-headed strolling. Even the sky seems to draw a little closer. We feel expansive. And, paradoxically, we also feel returned to the present moment; rather than trying to hide from it, we feel the very air.
So it was for Henry Thoreau during 1855’s January thaw, and so it has been for me. Along the nearby Sudbury River each morning a column of fog has mimicked the water’s passage, a gray and gauzy snake of tangible air. It flows; the water opens.
The other day, amid all this “spring-suggesting air,” I bumped into an article in the Boston Globe recommending that we attend to our “online lives,” with an eye toward what will happen to them after we die – offline that is.
That odd juxtaposition got me thinking about my growing unease with things-online, where one is never present, never alive in the very air of the moment. It’s bad enough to be distracted from the place where we live, but if we are now to begin planning for our online afterlives, how much wider will the split between our real and conjured lives grow?
As he walked on that January day in 1855, thaw brought this to Thoreau: “On the same bare sand is revealed a new crop of arrowheads. I pick up two perfect ones of quartz, sharp as if just from the hands of the maker.”
I think I prefer such a line of walking, where the past can join the present, to the leaping away and forward of online time. I prefer to be here rather than there.
Endnote: yes, there is the irony of hoping that you read this piece as online posting. I genuflect to that irony. Then I go out the door and down to the river.