Excerpts from WALDEN, or “LIFE IN THE WOODS” by Henry David Thoreau

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On awakening:

“All memorable events, I should say, transpire in morning time and in a morning atmosphere. The Vedas say, “All intelligences awake with the morning.
Poetry and art, and the fairest and most memorable of the
actions of men, date from such an hour . All poets and heroes, like Memnon, are the
children of Aurora, and emit their music at sunrise. To him whose
elastic and vigorous thought keeps pace with the sun, the day is a perpetual morning.
It matters not what the clocks say or the attitudes and labors of men.
Morning is when I am awake and there is a dawn in me. Moral reform is the effort to throw off sleep. Why is it that men give so poor an account of their day if they have not been slum bering? They are not such poor calculators. If they had not been overcome with drowsiness they would have performed something. The millions are awake enough
for physical labor; but only one in a million is awake enough for effective intellectual exertion, only one in a hundred millions to a poetic or divine life. To be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a man who was quite awake. How could I have looked him in the face? We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do.To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.
Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation
of his most elevated and critical hour. If we refused, or rather used up, such paltry information as we get, the oracles would distinctly inform us how this might be done.
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not , when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.”

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Solitude

This is a delicious evening, when the whole body is one sense, and imbibes delight
through every pore. I go and come with a strange liberty in Nature, a part of herself. As I walk along the stony shore of the pond in my shirt sleeves, though it is cool as well as cloudy and windy, and I see nothing special to attract me, all the elements are unusually congenial to me. The bullfrogs trump to usher in the night, and the note of the whippoorwill is borne on the rippling wind from over the water. Sympathy with the
fluttering alder and poplar leaves almost takes away my breath; yet, like the lake, my
serenity is rippled but not ruffled. These small waves raised by the evening wind are as remote from storm as the smooth reflecting surface. Though it is now dark, the wind
still blows and roars in the wood, the waves still dash, and some creatures lull the rest with their notes. The repose is never complete. The wildest animals do not repose, but
seek their prey now; the fox, and skunk, and rabbit, now roam the fields and woods without fear. They are Nature’s watchmen,—links which connect the days of animated life.”…

 

…“I should think you would feel lonesome down there, and want to be nearer to folks, rainy and snowy days and nights especially.” I am tempted to reply to such,—This whole earth which we inhabit is but a point in space. How far apart, think you, dwell the two most distant inhabitants of yonder star, the breadth of whose disk cannot be appreciated by our instruments? Why should I feel lonely? Is not our planet in the Milky Way? This which you put seems to me not to be the most important question.
What sort of space is that which separates a man from his fellows and makes him solitary? I have found that no exertion of the legs can bring two minds much nearer
to one another.”…

“The indescribable innocence and beneficence of Nature,—of sun and wind and rain, of summer and winter,—such health, such cheer, they afford forever! And such sympathy have they ever with our race, that all Nature would be affected, and the sun’s brightness fade, and the winds would sigh humanely, and the clouds rain tears, and the woods shed their leaves and put on mourning in midsummer, if any man should ever for a just cause grieve. Shall I not have intelligence with the earth? Am I not partly leaves and vegetable mould myself?”

“Morning air! If men will not drink of this at the fountain-head of the day, why,
then, we must even bottle up some and sell it in the shops, for the benefit of those
who have lost their subscription ticket to morning time in this world.”

by Henry David Thoreau

 

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. a lot said her-and said well. especially loved the quote ” to affect the quality of the day . . .” oh my-just beautiful! thank you

    Like

    1. Hi Michele! I particularly thought of you when I was reading this… It reminded me so much of your own diary and appreciation for nature 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have been reading Thoreau like mad lately. Painting that quote somewhere! thank you sooo much-love Michele

        Like

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