Thoreau: A Discovery

A reflection on how I came to love Thoreau; on his birthday, July 12, 2012:

I grew up in a farmhouse not unlike the Thoreau homestead but located in the farmland of Monmouth County, New Jersey. My father, a foster child of the owners, spent his childhood swimming and fishing in the local pond and foraging in the surrounding woodlands, not far from the state’s famous Pine Barrens. My memories of childhood are filled with the smell of pinesap, the clucking of chickens, the daily light show called sunset behind a long, tall stand of ancient trees.  It wasn’t surprising when Thoreau’s Walden appeared on a reading list in high school that I discovered a kindred spirit who would remain a companion and inspiration my whole live through.

In truth, my first reading of Walden was quickly interrupted by boredom!  I was swept up in the magic of the first few pages only to be brought crashing back to earth by Economy, something which I had no notion of at the age of 16. A few years later, living on a budget with my new husband, I went back and read that chapter and what followed with greater appreciation, enjoyment, and relish. Throughout my 20s and 30s, I must have reread Walden every year, usually at the end of winter with the anticipation of spring activities.

How I dared to dream and to walk in the direction of those dreams! A lover of world literature, nowhere did I find the eloquence and call to action I found in those well-worn pages, as well as in “Walking,” “Civil Disobedience,” “Life without Principle,” and other essays.  Thoreau had a way of touching every true and good thing in life and showing us how we, too, can live lives of integrity and meaning, fulfilling rather than compromising our original promise.  Nor did we have to conform, not even with others who held similar beliefs. There can never be too many different kinds of people, he wrote, long before diversity was recognized as a positive influence.

Six years ago, I made a literary pilgrimage to Concord, Mass., to visit the homes and sites associated with so many of America’s great 19th century authors. It was there I encountered Thoreau again, but in a new light. Arriving at the Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, Mass., one morning, I found the library open and came face to face with the 14 volumes of Thoreau’s Journals (Houghton, Mifflin & Company, 1906). Sitting at a low, round table, I encountered the ideas and dreams behind his finished writing, and some literary gems as brilliant as the more familiar published works. In addition, the pages came alive with Thoreau’s fresh, original drawings from nature.  These journals opened a new path of discovery for me, one I continue on this day, and look forward to sauntering along for many years to come.

Thoreau has been my scout on this expedition we call life, clearing away the debris and underbrush and pointing up and ahead where every day, whether in the sky or in our own imaginings, we may see the morning star.

Linda Brown Holt, Copyright 2012

Posted on Thursday, July 12, 2012 at 04:31PM by Registered CommenterLinda Brown Holt | CommentsPost a Comment

The Zen Drawings of H.D.Thoreau - The Paper

An informal paper presented July 9, 2010, at the Thoreau Society's Annual Gathering in Concord, Mass. The PowerPoint, saved as a PDF, appears in the Journal entry below this one.

Zen Drawings Paper

Posted on Thursday, July 15, 2010 at 01:49PM by Registered CommenterLinda Brown Holt | CommentsPost a Comment | References1 Reference

The Zen Drawings of H.D.Thoreau - The PowerPoint

An informal paper with PowerPoint presented July 9, 2010, at the Thoreau Society's Annual Gathering in Concord, Mass. Here is the PowerPoint, saved as a PDF. The paper is posted as a separate Journal entry.

Zen Drawings PPT-PDF

Posted on Thursday, July 15, 2010 at 01:01PM by Registered CommenterLinda Brown Holt | Comments1 Comment | References9 References

Thoreau paper published in Chinese

My paper, 'The Sage Engaged," delivered at Tsinghua University, Beijing, in Fall 2008, is now available in Chinese in The Journal of Nanyang Normal University, Vol 5, 2010. My deepest appreciation to Professor Cheng Xiangzhan of the School of Literature and Journalism, Shandong University, Ji'nan, P.R. China, for the translation and publication of this essay. The paper may be read in English at

Posted on Thursday, July 8, 2010 at 07:28AM by Registered CommenterLinda Brown Holt | CommentsPost a Comment | References1 Reference

Brown Bug - The Journals 7-27-1860

Posted on Wednesday, July 7, 2010 at 02:09PM by Registered CommenterLinda Brown Holt | CommentsPost a Comment | References2 References
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