Thursday, September 27, 2012

Live the life you have imagined.

 Reading "On Walden Pond," by Henry David Thoreau, used to be an American high school rite of passage, and if somehow you managed to miss it in high school, you probably met up with it in college. It has never gone completely out of style (first published in 1854), and it is enjoying a resurgence as a new generation grapples with the need, the desire to reconnect with the natural world and a more simple way of living.
 We live, well, a stone's throw (or so) from Concord, and Walden Pond, but last weekend was only the second time I've been. We had weekend guests -- dear friends from Ireland -- and it turned out to be one of those in-your-back-pocket-gems that we all seem to only appreciate when we see them through the eyes of out-of-town (and better yet, out-of-country) visitors.
 It's a place that brings out people's desire to leave a mark, although it's refreshing to see these kinds of impermanent, natural marks rather than the graffiti that's been a problem in the past. The lake is quite small -- quite a few people were swimming the length and back again despite the cool temperatures (I guess it's one of those, "we're here, so we have to swim it!" kinds of things.)
The original house is long-gone, but the park service built this reproduction close to the park entry (not the original location, but convenient for those who can't or won't stray far from their vehicles). Cozy as it is, I cannot imagine lasting through New England winters in it.

The book can be a slog, because in between the clear and compelling charge to 'live the life you have imagined,' there's a LOT about the cost of nails and boards and how much he had to spend on beans.  Building the cottage cost him $28, which they translate to being less than $900 in today's dollars -- so, really cheap even for the times.

"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. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion."
Henry David Thoreau

He did find it sublime, of course.

The previous owners of our house left a poster up in the room that's slowly becoming my craft room/office, where I am sitting now.  But it bothers me that the quote is incorrect -- "live the life you dreamed," it says.  I'll live.

1 comment:

Theresa said...

I dream of living in the woods :)