Feb 1, 2014

Lost in the Woods

Just got back from the woods at Walden Pond where Thoreau spent nearly two years experimenting life at it's simplest form, in solitude, mostly at leisure, seasonal gardening, some reading and a lot of writing.

The year was 1845. Thoreau sets off to clear some woods around Walden pond, the land that belonged to his mentor Emerson, with a borrowed axe. After a few weeks of cutting and hewing and toiling alone he has made his house in the woods, built by his own hands just like the birds do. On July 4th, the Independence day, he moves into his new boarding, with his nearest neighbor a mile away.

This house at once invites you in. The simple living, the minimal furniture, the songs of birds, the frogs at the pond, his bean field, some reading material, visiting travelers, left behind notes, passing trains, walks to the village, concerned few, suspicious others, keep it lively.

Of all the people he mentions about there are two I wish I had met. They have such a resemblance to people I have met in my own childhood around Karinkal Grandma's neighborhood.

Here's to introduce them to you, in Thoreau's own words:
An elderly dame, too, dwells in my neighborhood, invisible to most persons, in whose odorous herb garden I love to stroll sometimes, gathering simples and listening to her fables; for she has a genius of unequal fertility, and her memory runs back further than mythology, and she can tell me the origin of every fable, and on what fact every one is founded, for the incidents occurred when she was young. A ruddy and lusty old dame, who delights in all weathers and seasons, and is likely to outlive all her children yet...
&
...To him Homer was a great writer, though what his writing was about he did not know. A more simple and natural man it would be hard to find. Vice and disease, which cast such somber moral hue over the world, seemed to have hardly any existence for him. He was about twenty eight years old, and had left Canada and his father's house a dozen years before to work in the States, and earn money to buy a farm with at last, perhaps in his native country.

He was a skillful chopper, and indulged in some flourishes and ornaments in his art. He cut his trees level and close to the ground, that the sprouts which came up afterward might be more vigorous and a sled might slide over the stumps; and instead of leaving a whole tree to support his corded wood, he would pare it away to a slender stake or splinter which you could break off with your hand at last.

He interested me because he was so quiet and solitary and so happy withal; a well of good humor and contentment which overflowed at his eyes. His mirth was without alloy.

I heard that a distinguished wise man and reformer asked him if he did not want the world to be changed; but he answered with a chuckle of surprise in his Canadian accent, not knowing that the question had ever been entertained before, "No, I like it well enough".

It would have suggested many things to a philosopher to have dealings with him. To a stranger he appeared to know nothing of things in general; yet I sometimes saw in him a man whom I had not seen before, and I did not know whether he was as wise as Shakespeare or as simply ignorant as a child, whether to suspect him of a fine poetic consciousness or of stupidity. A townsman told me that when he met him sauntering through the village in his small close-fitting cap, and whistling to himself, he reminded him of a prince in disguise.
I am sure now you are lost too, in Thoreau's Life in the Woods. It is a great place to be after all, for few minutes at a time, if not for the whole two years as tried by him. The best place to start I believe is right in our backyards.

Enjoy then! Have loads of fun! When you see the dame or the man though, please send in for me; I would love to greet.


8 comments:

YL said...

I like the following statement of the man that Thoreau had introduced.
"I heard that a distinguished wise man and reformer asked him if he did not want the world to be changed; but he answered with a chuckle of surprise in his Canadian accent, not knowing that the question had ever been entertained before, "No, I like it well enough".
When we like what we have then why long for a change?

KParthasarathi said...

I was lost in the wood and its delightful ambience when I was reading your post.It was a welcome diversion for me.I could visualise his two years spent in solitude tending to garden,reading ,writing and occasional meeting with the 'ruddy and lusty old dame'

NRIGirl said...

Exactly what I liked too Amma! Thank you for commenting.

NRIGirl said...

Thank you KP! Great to see you back and commenting. :)

anilkurup said...

I lost my way too and it was a pleasant way to lose one's way.
Like one of the comments mentioned ,"I heard that a distinguished wise man and reformer asked him if he did not want the world to be changed; but he answered with a chuckle of surprise in his Canadian accent, not knowing that the question had ever been entertained before, "No, I like it well enough".

What shall I say in reply?
The woods are beckoning.

NRIGirl said...

I am sure you would love reading his entire experience, @AnilKurup. Walden is the name of the book, if at all you can find a copy.

This and Richard Woodman's seafaring stories...

Tracy Terry said...

Nice to have you back.

This sounds interesting, I'm totally intrigued by the mention of minimal furniture and left behind notes.

Destine said...

you have some very thought provoking topics too , very interesting

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