Let’s Put Thoreau in his Proper Place

In a recent post, I compared a weekend spent hiking in the Catskills to Henry David Thoreau’s two-year sojourn at Walden Pond, as both were experiments in natural living and self-sufficiency.

But then my daughter Emeline brought to my attention a recent article entitled “Pond Scum.”  The author, Kathryn Schulz, questions why we still admire the literature of a man who was mean-spirited and a fake.  She summarizes her opinion in no uncertain terms:

Continue reading “Let’s Put Thoreau in his Proper Place”

Let’s Put Thoreau in his Proper Place

Walden, in a Weekend

Friday evening, my nephew Nathaniel stopped by to visit during college break.  Over dinner he mentioned a course he was taking on Henry David Thoreau, the 19th century transcendentalist who had spent two years living in a cabin by the side of Walden Pond.  I had read Walden recently and appreciated Thoreau’s experiment in self-sufficiency and simple living, as well as his clever style.  I asked Nathaniel, did he think Thoreau was a nature lover or a social recluse?  Then I wondered aloud why Thoreau had left Walden after only two years.

Once dinner was over, and Nathaniel had left, I summoned Odie the Labradoodle, and we piled into the car for a weekend adventure that might, it occurred to me, share some of Thoreau’s values.  For us, self-sufficiency and simplicity would mean hiking barefoot, skipping meals, and sleeping in a lean-to.  However, instead of two years, our trip would last two days.  It would be like Walden, just in miniature.

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.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Continue reading “Walden, in a Weekend”

Walden, in a Weekend