Monthly Archives: January 2014

Waiting for Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau, circa 1861. Public domain image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve meandered my way through Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. It’s one of those great literary classics that is on my I’ll-get-around-to-reading-it-someday literary bucket list and Thoreau’s account of his two-year experience living in a solitary one-room cabin near Concord, Massachusetts.

This book is what I call a “chewy” book and it took a while to get through it. It reminded me a bit of Thackery’s Vanity Fair (click here if you ever want to know how I fared with that one). The writing is so dense that you have to take a break sometimes and read something lighter in sheer self-defense. With one or two chapters, I couldn’t wait to get to the end. *weary sigh*

But it’s interesting in its way. Thoreau was age 28 when he first started to live there and he paints a vivid picture of the area’s landscape and people to the point that I can almost see and hear it for myself. For most of the book, it’s Thoreau’s musings on various topics such as clothing, the house he built, woodsy sounds, forest visitors, the local ponds and human visitors.

Some of his basic philosophies were pretty good, too — about not worrying about comparing yourself to the status of others, living a meaningful life (our life is frittered away by detail, says Thoreau) and simplifying the way you live. (I have a feeling ol’ Henry would have loved the “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” song.)

But I think my favorite bit was his thoughts about your day: “To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour.”

Not a bad way to live your life, at any rate. And if you’re curious about what Thoreau’s home in the woods actually looked like, here’s a video.

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