Our village life would stagnate if it were not for the unexplored forests and meadows which surround it. We need the tonic of wildness, -to wade sometimes in marshes where the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe; to smell the whispering sedge where only some wilder and more solitary fowl builds her nest, and the mink crawls with its belly close to the ground. 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 infinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of Nature. We must be refreshed by the sight of inexhaustible vigor, vast and Titanic features, the seacoast with its wrecks, the wilderness with its living and its decaying trees, the thunder cloud, and the rain which lasts three weeks and produces freshets. We need to witness our own limits transgressed, and some life pasturing freely where we never wander. Walden, Henry David ThoreauIf you haven't read Walden, do yourself a favor and run, do not walk, to the nearest bookstore or library and pick up a copy. It drags in parts, but Henry's precious gems of wisdom are sprinkled throughout. If you don't have the patience to sit through the entire piece, at the very least, you must read the conclusion. A paltry five or six pages, but in them dear Henry has written some of his most wonderful idea(l)s concerning American life, and life more generally.
I'm moving on to John Steinbeck this week, but I'll leave two more of Henry's quotables:
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. Walden, Henry David Thoreau
Some are dinning in our ears that we Americans, and moderns generally, are intellectual dwarfs compared with the ancients, or even the Elizabethan men. But what is that to the purpose? A living dog is better than a dead lion. Shall a man go and hang himself because he belongs to the race of pygmies, and not be the biggest pygmy that he can? Let every one mind his own business, and endeavor to be what he was made. Walden, Henry David Thoreau