Monday, October 4, 2021

My old friend, Henry David Thoreau and my Uncle Leroy Pelkin

 

 

 


I 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.

23 comments:

Debra She Who Seeks said...

His writings have always resonated with me as well. His passage about marching to the beat of a different drummer gave me the courage I needed in adolescence to withstand and reject social/familial and religious pressure to be someone I was not nor wanted to be.

Betsy said...

I enjoyed reading about your relationship with both your Uncle Leroy and Thoreau. I think your uncle may have had a lot to do with your love of reading. :-)
Blessings,
Betsy

Granny Marigold said...

Thoreau was a great man, there's no doubt about it. As an introvert I especially like the last quote about sitting alone on a pumpkin rather than with the crowds on the velvet cushion.

dori said...

What a sensitive hero is Thoreau! I think, he is a brother of you! A relative and friend in your mind and soul. What best friends books can be!! Full of life!!

You learned to appreciate good books since you were a child. So you still have the same profession as in early times of your life. Wonderful!

I also love the sentences of this spiritual faithful and true-thinking writer! - - -

judee said...

Thank you. I enjoyed reading your beautiful post and your insights and the quotes. Interesting how a person will be willing to go to jail to stand up for what he/she believes. Quite outstanding.

Amelia said...

Aw, yes. I'm intrigued by these writers as well, I need to take some time and check into more of their writing. I too value solitude and God's handiwork in nature. Love the quotes. Thank you for sharing! Love the one about sitting on a pumpkin. So true!

Blessings to you, hope you are enjoying the fall weather!

~Amelia

Salty Pumpkin Studio said...

The old Carlilse Road, has been called, Estabrook Road for as long as I can remember. It is still there. Thoreau is a 5th cousin removed, share a great great grandmother, not sure exact generation count. He helped bring my great great grandfather's family to America.

Marcia said...

Thanks for the quotes. Timely! We ran into Thoreau history in Maine where we visited three times.

DawnTreader said...

I don't think I ever read any book by Thoreau, although no doubt his name came up in American literary history classes + I know he's frequently quoted. Your story how you were given the book by an uncle reminded me of around the same age being given Robinson Crusoe (in Swedish translation) by an uncle (or really he was my dad's cousin, but they were close, and I saw him as an uncle).

Sam Sattler said...

We should all have been so lucky as to have had an Uncle Leroy in our lives. You were truly blessed to have had him in your family.

Katie Isabella said...

OH, you are truly my hero. I enjoyed this post more than I can express just now. I too read books written for older people as opposed to children's or teens books. My "Guide" in this were certain teachers, and recommendations from Librarians as I went along in school. I learned to choose books that fed my mind and heart, and I had friends who were rather like that as well. We exchanged books. I love reading. It enables me to travel around the world, to meet many people, to pick and glean from what they scatter to those of us who wait within their circle. Books are a vacation, a place to "be" and a source of joy as well as entertainment. And I love the smell of books, paper and ink.

Marie Smith said...

How fortunate you were to have an uncle who encouraged you to read such wonderful authors!

happyone said...

Yes, great writers and men. What a treasure to have these books that your uncle gave you.

Mari said...

Your Uncle Leroy was a wise man. It's very cool that you have some of those very old books yet.

Margaret D said...

Interesting reading about Thoreau.

Retired Knitter said...

Growing up I was not drawn to these writers or the thoughts that were expressed. But now - with considerable life behind me and life experiences that have educated me - I see how important their message is. How very ahead of your age you were to see the value of the ideas in these books.

Aritha said...

Nice. I will search for these sort of books in the library now.

Dee said...

Dear Terra, I met Thoreau's writing only in high school. Taught by the Roman Catholic nuns--the Sisters of Mercy founded in Ireland in the 19th century (I think)--we learned about God-given rights. However, I would need to really consider today our rights and our depending on the government to see that no-one infringes on them. I think the present response by some to the pandemic may be a case in point as is, perhaps, the stance the Republican party is now thaking, as they follow the former president, in emphaisizing one person's right to this or that or another person's.

One last thought: I wasn't reading Thoreau at a young age, but I was reading adult fiction that I chose at the town library. And, more importantly for me, I was memorizing poems by mostly English-speaking poets. Lines from those poems still inform my life. Peace.

Wanda said...

What wonderful quotes. Where are the awesome quotes of our day??? We truly live in a different world. Thanks for sharing good and wholesome wisdom.

Lady Locust said...

I love this post! I need to read more, again, still :-)

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

I love these quotes too and now I would like to reread books by this author!

Judy at GoldCountryCottage said...

Terra, I loved this post. How wonderful it was of your uncle to give you such wonderful books. I have a few old books, and even though there were just frivilous stories of the times, I cherish them. I have often used that quote about sitting on a pumpkin in my past blogs. It is always accompanied by a picture of my grandson, when little, sitting on a big pumpkin in the field.. Happy Fall..xxoJudy

Irina Kovalenko said...

Hi, Terra. You dropped in to my blog from Yoko but I didn’t reply then. It was last year, the lockdown period, time of depression. Is it too late for apologies? I’m sorry anyway. As for Thoreau, we used to read his “Walden, or Life in the Woods” when we had more classes in Literature; I teach English and American Literature in a university. Your impressions of Thoreau‘s books make enjoyable reading. The quote about the pumpkin became my favourite too, thank you. Have a great weekend.
Irina
Oh, I loved your blog introduction! “I love to giggle” characterizes you more than the rest, I think.