began my acquaintance with Henry David Thoreau when I was a
preteen, perhaps 10 or 11, when my uncle Leroy Pelkin gave me a book by
Thoreau. He honored my ability to learn by only giving me adult books
over the years. Uncle Leroy gave me a nice selection of books by Thoreau
and by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Some of the books were published in the
1800s and I still have them. Something about the writings of these men
resonated with Uncle Leroy and me. We both value independence, the
beauty of nature, and minimal government. Uncle Leroy valued time alone,
like Thoreau and like me. He was a bachelor, and as life goes full
circle, as a widow I live alone now. Solitude has many virtues, I find.
In his essay Civil Disobedience Thoreau describes our duty to obey a higher law when human laws are in conflict with that. He was opposed to slavery and was put in jail in 1846 for refusing to pay poll taxes which he understood supported slavery. His friends paid his taxes so he was released from jail; he did not appreciate what they did. His family sheltered a number of fugitive slaves.
Uncle Leroy gave me the book "Autumn: From the Journal of Henry D. Thoreau", published in 1892. Now that book is older than I am! I still have this book and will share a quote or two from it here.
"That old Carlisle road, which leaves towns behind; where you put off worldly thoughts; where you do not carry a watch nor remember the proprietor ... The lonely horse in its pasture is glad to see company, comes forward to be noticed, and takes an apple from your hand. Others are called great roads, but this is greater than they all." Sept. 24, 1859 Thoreau's Journal.
Emerson and Thoreau loved America, nature, the woods, individualism and the God given rights of citizens. They understood that God gave us rights, not the government, and thus, the government has no standing to take away our rights.
Here is a quote from Thoreau's Walden: “We need the tonic of wildness...At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”
I have a nice little book, "The Bluebird Carries the Sky On His Back", filled with short quotes by Thoreau. I will share a few with you here.
"The swiftest traveller is he that goes afoot."
"Shall I not rejoice also at the abundance of the weeds, whose seeds are the granary of the birds?"
"On Sundays ... when the wind was favorable ... I heard the bells of Concord, a faint, sweet melody, worth importing into the wilderness."
And here is a favorite of mine "I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than to be crowded on a velvet cushion."In 2021 Thoreau reminds me of much that is important and timeless and true.