By Ken Lizotte, President, Thoreau Farm Trust
As we say goodbye to 2020 (finally, thankfully), I’d like to single out a few great ones who, sadly, left us last year. John Lewis and Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elijah Cummings, for example, come to mind, as do Alex Trebek, Chadwick Boseman, Chuck Yeager, Sean Connery, Little Richard, Olivia de Havilland … so, so many. Too many.
As regards to our Thoreau community, Robert Richardson also comes to mind. The author of many transcendentalist writings, he came into my life when I first moved to Concord in 1991. I attended his talk at the Concord Museum as he discussed his new biography of Emerson, The Mind on Fire. It literally introduced me to this magical world of thinkers in our little mid-19th century burg.
Fast forward to the 21st century when I was invited to join the Board of Trustees of Thoreau Farm. That got me reading Richardson’s other great bio, Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind, which filled in many gaps for me in terms of what Henry has meant to the larger world, and why. Richardson also contributed to our Thoreau Farm collection of essays, What Would Henry Do? (published by Thoreau Farm in 2017) and I had plans to bring him onto our next panel discussion about the ideas in our book. But it was not to be.
Later in the year, another loss hit me just as hard, the death of writer Alice Koller. I had read Alice’s book, An Unknown Woman: A Journey to Self-Discovery, during my formative years as a writer and strongly identified with her own journey.
Recording her emotional peaks and valleys during a year of living totally alone (well, she did have her German Shepherd, Logos!) in a cottage on Nantucket Island, Alice could easily have titled her book An Unknown Person, thanks to the universality of her expressed challenges and joys. Her homage to the passion a writer feels touched my soul regardless of our differing genders. Similarly, some obituaries compared her with Henry, whose own many journals sparked the same sensibilities in budding writers.
Finally, when I took this picture from my Manhattan hotel room one morning in 2019, I wondered — would the fog enveloping Lady Liberty still enshroud her in November of 2020? Or would the clouds be dissipating? Now we know.