“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” Henry David Thoreau.
I have long been an admirer of Thoreau. I remember a conversation with a friend of mine, then a student at NYU, about what Thoreau would think about returning to a simple country life, but not giving up one’s eyeliner. I thought he might very well allow each of us to define our own essentials – not that I was the one finding eyeliner essential.
My rantings about Simplify, Simplify! have periodically annoyed my family for years. When my older son was in fifth grade his excellent teacher, Hava Kane, did a long unit on Thoreau and the Transcendentalists that culminated in a trip to Walden Pond. Inspired I took all the children to Walden that summer so you can see that Walden and Thoreau have been a part of our family life nearly forever.
When my husband and I were driving home from the family Thanksgiving we had to drive past the turnoff for Walden Pond, but this time we did not drive past.
We visited a reproduction of Thoreau’s tiny cabin, but then took the Ridge Walk to find the site of the original cabin.
The day was mild and many others were walking the trails through Walden woods. In 1945, on the Centennial of Thoreau’s retreat to the woods, Roland Wells Robbins, an amateur archaeologist set out to find the location of Thoreau’s cabin which had been built on land belonging to his good friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson. In his book Thoreau describes the location of the cabin: “I lived alone in the woods, a mile from any neighbor . . .my house was on the side of a hill, immediately at the edge of the larger woods, in the midst of a young woods of pitch pines and hickories, and a half a dozen rods from the pond, to which a narrow path led down the hill.” For two years and two months Thoreau lived in the woods, but the distance was not so great that he couldn’t walk over to the Emerson’s for a good meal with some regularity. He did not depend entirely on his bean rows.
This inscribed marker was placed on the site of the cabin’s fireplace. “Below this stone lies the chimney foundation of Thoreau’s cabin 1845-1847. Go thou my incense upward from this hearth.”
For more inspiration by the Muses visit Carolyngail at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago. And don’t forget to leave a comment on the previous post to participate in my Blogoverary Giveaway.
This Post Has 12 Comments
Lucky you to be able to visit this site. Simplify has been a goal for a long time by many.
Lisa – The earth might be a little healthier if we could all simplify a little bit. We are trying.
How wonderful to be able to visit Walden Pond! Your area has such a rich historical and literary legacy, Pat; I think I could spend days visiting so many places there that would touch me. The first quote by Thoreau is my favorite, bar none. While I often think of “Simplify, Simplify” these days, it is his idea of making sure you have “lived before you die” that has been my guide. Thank you for such a wonderful Muse Day post!
Rose – We are both of the same mind. I wish I could show you around.
I used to swim all the time at Walden Pond when we lived in Cambridge. Thanks for taking me back. How wonderful that your son got to study him in 5th grade. My son went on a wilderness experience through Chewonki that followed Thoreau’s route via canoe in Maine. Next time you are in that area, check out the Decordova Museum with lovely woods, pond and sculpture gardens. So nice to connect to with another Thoreau fan!
Sarah – I’d love to take Thoreau’s route through Maine. You have a lucky son too.
When I first read Thoreau as a young girl I wondered what the big deal was because his lifestyle was pretty much what we had on a daily basis. Of course I have a different perspective now when I realized it was a choice he made ” to live deliberately. ”
Thanks for sharing this lovely story, Pat.
Carolyngail – thank you for hosting Muse Day. I love finding some particular inspiration every month.
What a treat! Your lovely post takes me back many years to a Walden Pond visit. Thoreau and Emerson are two of my heros. You are such a wonderful storyteller Pat!
Carol – Wouldn’t it be fun to visit all the places that have inspired, with other friends who have been equally inspired?
Pat, thanks for these pics of Walden Pond. I still remember the docks and crowded beach there before they turned it into the well-managed area that it has become. For Thoreau lovers, it is a place of pilgrimage. Have you read “Thoreau’s Garden, by the way”? You’d love it..
caveat..I haven’t been back to WP in many years..I am HOPING it is still well managed. In the early 1980s they restricted daily visitor access and removed the swimming docks, and rerouted trails to prevent shoreline erosion, but since they don’t allow dogs there I haven’t been in years 🙂