The Emergence of Woodchucks & Thoreau for Our Time

simswarming

In the early 1850s Thoreau committed himself more fully than ever to his journal. At the time of his death, he had written two million words in this private storehouse, filling seven thousand pages in forty-seven volumes between October 1837 and November 1861. He came to realize that his most important task was attending the natural phenomena of everyday life, and at one point he half-jokingly complained that his observations were becoming more scientific and less poetic….He created a huge calendar of annual natural events, recording the first blossoming of wildflowers and the return of migrating birds, the emergence of woodchucks and the duration of snowstorms.” — from Michael Sims’ The Adventures of Henry Thoreau

It’s astounding to think of the legacy Henry David Thoreau left us, after only forty-four short years on the earth he loved so well. Thoreau lives on, and he always will on the Land Library’s shelves!

In the past few months we were thrilled to add two more books to our Thoreau collection. Both volumes bring a fresh new Thoreau to our worried age of climate change and nature-deficit disorder. We learn about the always aspiring, sometimes faltering writer (and sharp-eyed naturalist) in Michael Sims’ The Adventures of Henry Thoreau: A Young Man’s Unlikely Path to Walden Pond. Sims’ goal is to “find Henry” rather than “applaud Thoreau”, and that he does. Rebecca Solnit writes: “The closest you’ll ever get to going on a walk with Thoreau is reading this book.”

While Thoreau walked he observed and meticulously recorded nature’s details — to an extent we never fully appreciated until reading Richard Primack’s Walden Warming: Climate Change Come to Thoreau’s Woods (also pictured above). Primack is one of the current-day scientists who are mining Thoreau’s journals and daily logs for clues to the creeping climate crisis we all face. Primack, professor of biology at Walden’s near neighbor, Boston University, writes:

In the past, Thoreau directly called our attention to the issues of protecting nature, ending slavery and unjust war, and the need for simple living. Today his journals and his unfinished calendar of nature can give us further insights. His records of plant flowering times at Walden Pond and in one small town in Massachusetts convey a much larger truth. The changing climate is already affecting the plant life that forms the base of the food web upon all life depends.

And so Thoreau’s legacy takes on an even deeper significance.

waldenhenry david's house

A library can’t have too many editions of Thoreau’s classic book, but one of our favorites is Jeffrey Cramer’s annotated Walden. Thoreau is a strong presence at our Waterton Canyon Kids Nature Library too. We especially love Steven Schnur’s Henry David’s House.

No matter where you live, urban or rural, we all have our own Walden Pond. Attention, and devotion, is all!

I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beech-tree, or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines.” from Walden

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