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Friday 21 February 2014

Henry David Thoreau: Close to Earth


  Nelson Island #24 (Rowley, Massachusetts): photo by Jim Rohan, 9 February 2014

The life in us is like the water in the river. It may rise this year higher than man has ever known it, and flood the parched uplands; even this may be the eventful year, which will drown out all our muskrats. It was not always dry land where we dwell. I see far inland the banks which the stream anciently washed, before science began to record its freshets. Every one has heard the story which has gone the rounds of New England, of a strong and beautiful bug which came out of the dry leaf of an old table of apple-tree wood, which had stood in a farmer's kitchen for sixty years, first in Connecticut, and afterward in Massachusetts — from an egg deposited in the living tree many years earlier still, as appeared by counting the annual layers beyond it; which was heard gnawing out for several weeks, hatched perchance by the heat of an urn. Who does not feel his faith in a resurrection and immortality strengthened by hearing of this? Who knows what beautiful and winged life, whose egg has been buried for ages under many concentric layers of woodenness in the dead dry life of society, deposited at first in the alburnum of the green and living tree, which has been gradually converted into the semblance of its well-seasoned tomb — heard perchance gnawing out now for years by the astonished family of man, as they sat round the festive board — may unexpectedly come forth from amidst society's most trivial and handselled furniture, to enjoy its perfect summer life at last!

Henry David Thoreau: from Walden, 1854

Close to Earth: photo by Jim Rohan, 15 January 2011

I went to the woods and all I got was this lousy Henry David Thoreau t-shirt (Concord, Massachusetts). (Walden Pond is one of the most "un-wildernessed" places you could ever visit. I'm sure Thoreau is spinning in his grave. I also shot this with people in it (hard not to at Walden Pond) and given the smarmy title I came up with, probably should have posted a peopled version of this...): photo by Jim Rohan, 27 June 2012

Bench #2, Walden Pond, Concord, Massachusetts: photo by Jim Rohan, 6 January 2012

The Great Marsh #5 (Newbury, Massachusetts): photo by Jim Rohan, 14 April 2013

 Professor Chandler's Long Walk #3 (Rowley, Massachusetts): photo by Jim Rohan, 6 February 2014

Abandoned shack, Stackyard Road, Rowley, Massachusetts: photo by Jim Rohan, 18 February 2014

Cove, Lynn Woods, Lynn, Massachusetts: photo by Jim Rohan, 12 October 2010


Nin Andrews said...

Flooding, yes. I wish I could think it was a spiritual event. And as to the insects, I hope it's not too evil to say that I am hoping that some of these polar temperatures will reduce their populations . . .

I love the photo of the bench in the water. I think that's about where I'll be sitting if the predicted floods arrive here.

TC said...

It must have been helpful to have that Old-Time Transcendental Religion, at such times.

Yes, small wonder Thoreau abandoned that shack on Stackyard Road in favour of the concrete blockhouse in the shot below.

Of course that lower shot shows a cove in the OTHER Walden Pond, the one in Lynn Woods. So nobody with a camera would ever think to look for him there. The perfect backup retreat spot.

Someone asked how Jim Rohan got that shot of the partially submerged bench.

"I am standing on a wall."


Barry Taylor said...

I'm very pleased to make the acquaintance of Thoreau's 'strong and beautiful bug' - such a suggestive image of the unremembered past releasing it dormant energies to irrigate and enliven the present. Thoreau goes with the social reading of the bug's gift - I'm drawn to its psychological and spiritual resonances. Whichever way you take it, that tiny creature carries quite a freight of meaning.

mistah charley, ph.d. said...

Thoreau's strong and beautiful bug reminds me of Jung's golden scarab - here's the story from a sermon of R.M. Fewkes of First Parish, Norwell:

Jung's most famous case of synchronicity in psychotherapy was with the woman patient who recited a dream she had had in which she was given a costly piece of jewelry, a golden scarab (beetle). While she was relating the dream Jung heard something tapping at the window from outside. Jung opened the window and in flew a scarabaeid beetle which he caught in his hand, its gold-green color resembling that of the golden scarab in the woman's dream. He handed the beetle to his patient and said, "Here is your scarab."

The woman, who was highly educated and intelligent, had been resisting dealing with her feelings and emotions. She was very adept at rationalization and intellectualizing. After the scary scarab experience she was able to get to the root of her emotional problems and to make real progress in her growth toward wholeness.

The universe had somehow cooperated in her therapy by giving her a meaningful coincidence. The scarab that tapped on Jung's window was no ordinary bug. It was somewhat rare in those parts. It has, as one writer notes, "perennially symbolized transformation and metamorphosis, the very things that this woman's unconscious was calling out for. It was as if the struggle in her soul had been projected like a powerful movie image into the outer world" (SMALL MIRACLES, p. 20) and the universe responded accordingly.

Nora said...

I recently started reading the diary of a contemporary of Thoreau's, a Lincoln farmer. It's free to read online, with a wonderful commentary by Jane Langton.

Sadly, no mention of that strong and beautiful bug.

Hazen said...

Revisionist critiques of Walden late last century attempted to dismiss Thoreau’s experiment; the gist of them, as I recall (this was during the Roaring Eighties), was how impractical the man was to tramp off into the woods and just live, instead of going whoring after money. Real Merkins are, shall we say, more pragmatic, turning woods and waters into hard cash; like Frederic Tudor, the Boston venture capitalist who cut up the winter ice on Walden Pond and shipped it around the world, to great monetary profit.

While we await the next buggy transformation, there’s this, from a more southerly latitude and a warmer destination: it’s got a beat, and you can dance to it.

TC said...

As the bug lives in the wood, the spirits live in the memory of the strings...

Delta Moon: Ghost in My Guitar

Nora, the Chapin journal is a lovely read; and I'm much moved by the image of Jane Langton, there in the reading room with her index card file box, doing the sort of work humans actually did do, back in the legendary days before they were replaced by machines.