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  • Writer's pictureAmyanne rigby

A Winter's Walk with Henry David Thoreau

I guess I am becoming a hermit. No seriously, I would simply rather curl up and stay inside and linger. Thoreaus's word resonate with me, " In winter we lead a more inward life. Our hearts are warm and cheery, like cottages under drifts, whose windows and doors are half concealed, but from whose chimneys the smoke cheerfully ascends.

I found this essay, Thoreau's treasure while standing in line for brunch with my sister in Early winter. I bought a copy because not only am I a Thoreau lover, but I loved the packaging of the book- silly I know. I was going to wait for the perfect moment to break out Thoreau and cuddle up with some hot chocolate for a great read.... I waited and I waited and then finally on Christmas day, we had a skiff of snow so my mother and I blended our voices and shared this nearly two century old essay with my daughter Emma. The language was powerful, lyrical, and I fell in love!

It is a delicious memory. I dug it out again this week while fighting off a horrible sinus infection. It has been a mild winter. I have been begging for snowflakes and then it happened. Mother Nature made me smile. While writing this post I am facing west- the sun is hidden behind a cloudy February sky. The snow blankets the backyard with footprints from only my nine year old and the visiting deer. Birds hover at the feeders my husband has hanging form the cottonwood trees. There are a half dozen of them. the bare arms of the trees stretch and stand silent. The air is cold and crisp. It is a perfect winter's day,

Thoreau said it like this, "The trees and shrubs wear white arms to the sky on every side; and were walls and fences, we see fantastic forms stretching in frolic gambols across the dusky landscape, as if nature had strewn her fresh designs over the fields by night as models for man's art"

Thoreau's early essays and poetry first appeared in the journal, The Dial" founded in 1840 by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller. Thoreau mixes poetry and prose in "Winter Walk" and even borrows lyrics from his century earlier counterpart, James Thomson. The words of Thomson were once the literary equivalent of the Gideon Bible. It was not uncommon to find one of Thomson's book of poems in every inn and cottage in the land.

Literary geniuses as they might call themselves have studied works such as Thoreaus and Thomson's for generations. Thomson is to have "show how landscape might be used for emotional projection, to reveal an observer's mind as much as the thing observed.

Thoreau was a bit of a hermit himself. As a transcendentalist. he had a keen eye for observation and found pleasure in viewing the world around him from a detached point of view. He did not find health in society but in nature.

The essay "A Winter's Walk" concludes, "as if we would fain stay out long and late, that the gales may sigh through us, too, as through the leafless trees, and fit us for the winter:- as if we hoped so to borrow some pure and steadfast virtue which will stead us in all seasons."

I step outside and take in a long breath begging winter to let me borrow its strength, its fortitude, its purity... may this moment, this breath sustain me through all seasons!


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