thoreau: around the berry bush

His cabin was more like a camper in the backyard, only a mile and a half from home, and his sister brought him freshly baked cookies., but Henry David Thoreau did find a wilderness by Walden and time to develop a sturdy individualist’s philosophy…

…But not all was work between Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. On pleasant summer says Thoreau would often join the Emerson family on a picnic or a blueberrying party. Emerson would drive a carryall with his mother and Mrs. Lucy Jackson Brown; Thoreau would follow in a hayrack loaded with the Emerson children and their friends, the mothers, and the Emerson servants. While Emerson and the ladies sat in the shade, Thoreau would lead the children from one berry bush to another.



Nathaniel Hawthorne, too, as long as he remained in Concord, frequently came out to the pond for a visit. With his almost painful shyness, he sometimes found Thoreau’s cabin a welcome relief from the stream of visitors at home. Bronson Alcott was another frequent visitor. He purchased a farm on Lexington Road and set about restoring it. Thoreau helped him transplant evergreens and vines from the Walden woods and climbed a tree to assure him that the site he planned for a new summerhouse would have a good view. Thoreau often attended Alcott’s “Conversations” in town. And Alcott, in his turn, spent nearly every Sunday evening for several months in the winter of 1846-47 visiting with Thoreau at his cabin.

Louisa May Alcott was a child at the time of Thoreau’s residence at Walden., but he made an indelible impression on her and years later she recalled that he “used to come smiling up to his neighbors, to announce that the bluebirds had arrived, with as much interest in the fact as other men take in messages by the Atlantic cable. On certain days he made long pilgrimages to find the sweet rhodora in the wood, welcoming the lonely flower like a long lost friend. He gravely informed us once, that frogs were much more confiding in the spring, than later in the season; for then, it only took an hour to get well acquainted with one of the speckled swimmers, who liked to be tickled with a blade of grass, and would feed from his hand in the most sociable manner.”

The Alcott’s often took their friends out to the pond to see Thoreau. Frederick L.H. Willis, who is said to be the original of Laurie in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Woman, visited Thoreau  in July of 1847….( to be continued)…


(see link at end)…Thoreau died in 1862 at age 45. He’d suffered for years from tuberculosis. His health worsened after a trip into the woods in 1859 when he sought to count tree rings on stumps during a rain storm. His last full set of words were, “Now comes good sailing.”

This satisfying prediction was followed by two more words.



It’s possible heresy, but I like to imagine that if Thoreau had lived today he would have blogged while his Walden experiment unfolded day by day. As someone who felt called to announce humanity’s follies, he would have found the Internet the best way of communicating his message to the world. Slow down. Study at the feet of nature. Use nature wisely. Tread lightly wherever you go out of respect for all life. Get to know yourself deep down at the level of the soul.

As for his final utterance of “Moose” and “Indian,” Thoreau was such a realist I have to think he was not suffering from a death bed fantasy. Could it be he was knowingly speaking to the ones who stood ready to welcome him as he sailed off on his new adventure? I can see them now. Side by side the three of them move deep into the tall woods, crunching leaves and pine needles. Moose, Henry, Indian. Then at last, they are swallowed up by shadows. – V.W.Read More:

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