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Posts Tagged ‘Henry David Thoreau’

. . .  But while the earth has slumbered, all the air has been alive with feathery flakes descending, as if some northern Ceres reigned, showering her silvery grain over all the fields.We sleep, and at length awake to the still reality of a winter morning. The snow lies warm as cotton or down upon the window-sill; the broadened sash and frosted panes admit a dim and private light, which enhances the snug cheer within.

From A Winter Walk by Henry David Thoreau

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If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.
~ E.B. White

One such day, which was already planned, was not a particularly seductive one, but, it was a challenging one filled with the usual chores, responsibilities, and the this-and-that of life to attend to. There was someone to visit and a stop at the vegetable/fruit market before returning home where I set about preparations for our supper.

While the chicken was marinating, I checked my emails, my blog comments and your posts, then suddenly realized that there was a lecture I had hoped to attend; The Pen and the Trowel with Marta McDowell. When I first read about it, the lecture sounded interesting and the name of the speaker was vaguely familiar. Funny, isn’t it, how life’s tidbits of information marinate as we wander along in life?  I clicked onto the saved informational link, which still sounded interesting, and wondered aloud if I could still attend.

Explore the ways that writing and gardening intertwine with author and speaker, Marta McDowell. For years, McDowell has been occupied with writers who garden, and how their horticultural interests have changed her planting beds as well as her bookshelves. Starting with Mark Twain, and connecting to authors ranging from Henry David Thoreau to Louisa May Alcott, this lecture explores that rich, writing-gardening connection. Instructor: Marta McDowell, author and horticulturist. *

The lecture was at 7pm. It was already 4:30. Could I make it? I scurried about like the little chipmunk who gathered the stuffing out of the pillow on my porch rocker (not the one pictured above). I registered online, changed clothes, made sure all was in place for Tom’s supper and off I went to one of my favorite places, the Morton Arboretum.

I parked in the lot behind the Sterling Morton Library and enjoyed the short walk to its doors. If you have not visited this library you should. Membership to the Arb allows you to check out books but all visitors may enter, browse the stacks of books, learn something from the curated displays and more! The Sterling is, indeed, sterling in its embrace of nature.

Like the seasoned gardener and horticulturist she is, Marta McDowell sowed her words like flower seeds through the garden writings of such notables as Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) and Emily Dickinson, Louisa May Alcott and Ralph Waldo Emerson. She shared photos of her own garden’s many transformations after being influenced by the writings of many authors, as well as having visited many of their gardens while researching her several books.

In the course of Ms. McDowell’s lecture, I learned of the friendship between Samuel Clemons and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Stowe would often cross the lawn between their two homes and take plants from his large conservatory. Their neighbor was Charles Warner, who wrote “My Summer in a Garden” (note to self, check this out). She reminded us that before Louisa May Alcott’s  “Little Women” there was “Flower Fables” and that Beatrix Potter used features of her own Lake District home and gardens in her adored illustrations. The web of writers, illustrations, photographs and more cast a spell upon me that made me want to learn more about writers who did, indeed, improve the world while also enjoying it. It also reminded me of the shelves of books I have about gardening; shelves groaning with poetry, essays, literature, and lifestyles and I am filled gratitude for how words and photographs have shepherd me along my own garden paths.

My “aha” moment came when I saw Marta McDowell’s newly released book, and I realized she had authored such books as “All the Presidents’ Gardens”, “Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life” and “Emily Dickinson’s Gardens”. It was my dear friend Janet, aka Country Mouse, who recently alerted me to a book giveaway she knew I would be interested in, which I was, and which included some of these books as well as her newest book, “The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder”.

Do you have a favorite gardening writer or author who influenced your garden or your lifestyle?

The link to that giveaway can be found here

Here is a link to Marta McDowell’s lecture schedule. She might be in your area, in case you are interested: http://www.martamcdowell.com/events

*From the Morton Arboretum website.

 

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Walden:Oct.

Aug. 9. Wednesday. —To Boston.
“Walden” published. Elder-berries. Waxwork yellowing.

Henry David Thoreau’s journal entry of August 9, 1854

On August 9, 1854, “Walden, or Life in the Woods” was published. While not a best seller of its time, the book was favorably received and  the 2,000 published copies eventually sold. It has remained in publication since 1862. Thoreau was an early environmentalist, attune to nature and living simply. “Walden” continues to be a source of inspiration and Thoreau is often quoted.

I have posted the photo above before in my ramblings here on the Cutoff. It was taken one crisp, sunny, perfect October day a decade or so ago. That day remains one of the best days in my life. Tom and I ordered a lunch from a deli in Concord, Massachusetts then headed to Walden Pond, where we took a long walk in the woods of Thoreau, and ate our lunch sitting on the sun-warmed stones along the pond’s shore, watching rowers and swimmers and shorebirds as we soaked in the brilliance of time and place.

I thought about Walden Pond this morning after reading of today’s anniversary of the publishing of “Walden” and found my mind, then myself, wandering in nature.

As I pulled into the parking area of Lake Katherine, my cell phone rang. It was Tom wondering if I wanted to join him at Maple Lake, where he was headed. It’s interesting how our unspoken ideas often intersect. Tom said he would meet me instead at Lake Katherine.

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I started walking around the lake, stopping to look at the beauty around me. A large congregation of ducks were taking their afternoon nap, close to the shore. I stepped a little closer, hoping not to disturb them, when something fluttered in a nearby tree.  Can you see it on the far right branch?

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I watched for a few minutes before it swept down, slipped amongst the ducks, then wandered to the water’s edge. It wasn’t a duck. It looked like a heron, but, was much smaller and I could see a crop of molting head feathers.

The ducks continued their nap while I inched closer to this shorebird, which reminded me of a black-crowned heron,  with long still-like legs moving slowly through the shallow water and grasses.

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This bird was surely a youngster, just getting his feet wet, not at all concerned with my closeness (and I was less than a yard away at times). At one point, the bird grabbed at a reed of grass and looked surprised when it didn’t budge or taste as expected.

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It walked along the edge, sometimes hidden by the tall grasses, other times perched upon a rock. A gaggle of youngsters in bright pink shirts came by, looking for clues on a summer camp adventure. A trio of men walked by, white shirts and ties loosened, taken a walk on their lunch break, wondering, I’m sure, at what I was intent on photographing.

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I think this is a member of the Bittern family. The photos are a bit dark, but, if you click on them they are easier to see the bird.

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Tom found me and we walked the mile or so around the lake, sat for a bit while he ate his lunch, enjoying the gorgeous day, before we parted, each of us having a place to be. As I drove away, I thought of Walden and Thoreau and of how his legacy of actions and words resonate even today, and I thought of his essay, “Walking”, and of a simple walk, full of discovery, in nature today.

I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil—to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature . . . from “Walking” by Henry David Thoreau

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arbor-day-history-small

Well, now, I just assumed we all celebrate Arbor Day at the same time. Silly me.

Here is a neat little map that shows when Arbor Day is in your neck of the woods.  Click here to find your state’s date with a tree, then, go plant a tree, visit an arboretum, garden or zoo, recycle paper, take walk in the woods, breath a little lighter – or just give thanks for trees in our lives, wherever you may live.

If a man walks in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer. But if he spends his days as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making the earth bald before her time, he is deemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.

Henry David Thoreau

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IF THERE WERE FOUR PEOPLE FROM ANY TIME PERIOD YOU COULD INVITE TO DINNER WHO WOULD THEY BE?

I’m in a silly mood and just had to share that scene from Beetlejuice, which leads me to my first dinner guest, the man who  brought this song to us here in the States, Mr. Harry Belafonte. He will be a charming dinner guest with much insight into civil rights and the issues of today, the movie business as well as the record business. Oh, the stories he will tell with his distinctive voice,  the opinions he will bring to our table and maybe, just maybe, he will sing a tune for his supper.

Of course, I will invite Louisa May Alcott. If she happens to bring some party crashers, like Henry David Thoreau or the Emersons, I will gladly set a few more places and welcome them in. Can you imagine our conversation with Harry Belafonte and America’s famous transcendentalists?

Since it is dinner party,  I think it would be grand if Julia Child would give us the pleasure of her company. I wonder what she will think of all the renewed interest in her life and her continued impact on the culinary scene. She and her husband were known for their lively dinner parties. I’d love to have her dine with us – and hear about her years as a spy.

Last, but not least, I would invite Abigail Adams to join us. From the very beginning of our country’s founding, as citizens declared a state of independence and started our Revolutionary War, Abigail had a say in things that mattered. She wrote to her husband, John Adams  ” . . . and by the way in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors.” I will look forward to her views on how we ladies are “remembered” today, and I will encourage her to write a blog.

Who would you invite to dinner?

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Have I told you I love Autumn?

Though awakening in darkness is still taking some getting-used-to and the early end of sunlight at day’s end quickens my steps, I still love Autumn.

The crunch of leaves. The surprise of rosehips on the vine.  The sweet smell of apples.The luster of candles glowing through a window warms my soul and  has me leafing through Frost and Thoreau these last days of Autumn.

The fallen leaves still languish in assorted hues and textures on the lawn and in the flower beds, where perennials are spent and pleading for mercy – a hard task to toil when annuals are still blooming and a killing frost is yet to arrive.

It has been a strange fall, much like our past spring and summer. By now, there are usually hedgerows of leaves up and down our road; a sight to behold, I can assure you. Instead, we’ve still some green left on the trees and the magic of asters and mums still give us pleasure. We will surely be out in winter coats and stocking caps raking frosty leaves if we don’t get to them soon.

For now, however, I think I’ll light a candle and open the Stillwater Sampler by Gladys Taber. This latest addition to my Taber collection unexpectedly jumped into my hands the other day while browsing in my favorite little book booth at Jackson Square Mall. Yes, I’ll languish a bit more, like the leaves on the lawn, over the last of Autumn.

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Men of Concord

Prize Farmer

December 28, 1853. E. W—–, who got the premium on farms this year, keeps twenty-eight cows, which are milked before breakfast, or 6 o’clock, his hired men rising at 4:30 A.M.; but he gives them none of the milk in their coffee.

 Men of Concord, by Henry D. Thoreau. F. H. Allen: Editor. N. C. Wyeth, Illustrator. Page 110.

With twenty minutes to spare before my luncheon engagement,  I darted into the Goodwill Store a few doors down. With only twenty minutes, I knew I couldn’t get into too much trouble. I also knew I would have time for only one section, so, I headed over to my first choice, the book section.

A quick glance at the shelves indicated some fine books had been brought in since my last visit. Paperbacks and novels, some newer editions, some with the distinctive covers of older issues, all in good condition.

There, with its neat little spine facing me, was the title, Men of Concord and one surname, Thoreau. As I ever-so-gently slid it off of the shelf, the wonderful cover greeted me. The words upon its pages taken from the journal of Henry David Thoreau. The magnificent illustrations from an admirer of Thoreau. N. C. Wyeth.

You may remember my telling of our autumn sojourn a few years ago to Massachusetts and Walden Pond, which I wrote about here. It was a wonderful trip, made even more so by an afternoon lunch on Walden Pond and a walk through the woods that Thoreau wrote so famously about in Walden.

You may also remember my appreciation for the artwork of N. C. Wyeth, especially in his illustrations of a favorite childhood book, The Yearling, which I wrote about here.

To find the words from Thoreau’s journals so evocatively illustrated by N. C. Wyeth was a blissful encounter indeed.

Walking out of the store, I felt good at how little trouble I did get into, hugging my book, in pristine condition, at a whopping price of $1.95!

I thought I did pretty well for myself in such a short time.

Plates from the front of the book. Please click the pictures for a better look, especially the cover above.

Thoreau and Miss Emerson

Bronson Alcott at the Granary Cemetery in Boston

Four boys and a horse.

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