Day 1,556 – Thankful for a Spontaneous Reading from Thoreau as We Left the Woods

I’ve got to give it to my friend Steve. When we head out to the woods there’s never a shortage of surprises. From his seemingly never-ending pool of wilderness knowledge to deep thoughts to well timed jokes you never quite know what to expect. Today was no different.

We’d packed everything up and were about to leave the woods when he stopped us. He pulled out a book and said he wanted to share a quote with the boys and I. Steve told us the story of when it was first shared with him and when it came up a second time for him.

“I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one. It is remarkable how easily and insensibly we fall into a particular route, and make a beaten track for ourselves. I had not lived there a week before my feet wore a path from my door to the pond-side; and though it is five or six years since I trod it, it is still quite distinct. It is true, I fear, that others may have fallen into it, and so helped to keep it open. The surface of the earth is soft and impressible by the feet of men; and so with the paths which the mind travels. How worn and dusty, then, must be the highways of the world, how deep the ruts of tradition and conformity! I did not wish to take a cabin passage, but rather to go before the mast and on the deck of the world, for there I could best see the moonlight amid the mountains. I do not wish to go below now.”

Henry David Thoreau – Walden

For many reasons – including the obvious first line – this was such a perfect way to wrap up our time in the woods. As I’ve mentioned to several friends and within this blog I’ve felt depending yearning to be in the wilderness. When the time comes to go back to reality I can completely understand and appreciate the quote above. I had never heard this quote before, or if I have I was not ready to really hear it and receive it.

Hearing Steve read it while my boys listened was wild. I am not sure that they truly get it yet, but I hope it is a seed that will lay in their souls until it’s the right time for it to truly sprout.

When I got home I hopped online to re-read the quote. Not only did it resonate even more deeply, I happened upon the next paragraph in the book after this one.

I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.

Henry David Thoreau – Walden

This paragraph also hit me right between the eyes. Over the past week as I’ve spent time in thought and reflected on my goals and dreams for next year and how I wish to live into them I can’t help but find more inspiration in Thoreau’s paragraph. How true it is that by even living in the directions of our dreams we can start to find success? Time to build the foundations.

Escaping to the wilderness has always been music for my soul. Sitting alone by the campfire before anyone else awoke this morning gifted me the opportunity to enjoy a serenity that can only be found alone and in the wild. There was only nature and I and we enjoyed each other’s company. Hearing Steve’s spontaneous reading from Thoreau added more depth and context to that experience.

Steve – thanks for the awesome quote, it is greatly appreciated!!!


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