Thoreau – A Walker And A Thinker

“Go confidently in the direction of our dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.” – Henry David ThoreauKatie's Quote

Several recent post began with this Thoreau quote because they were the words Katie Ladany lived by, and in my opinion would be worthwhile for us all to consider. As I go about my daily writing routine I want to share with you a reading about Henry David Thoreau I came across this morning in Writer’s Almanac.

Walden PondIt was this day in 1854, August 9th, that his classic work, Walden, was published. Walden described the two years in Thoreau’s life during which he lived in a cabin by Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts, on land that belonged to his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson. In the spring of 1845, Thoreau borrowed an ax and began clearing the land to build the 10 feet by 15 feet cabin in which he lived.

While at Walden Pond, Thoreau tended a garden, went for walks in the woods, sat and observed nature, and did a lot of writing. By the time he left Walden in 1847, he compiled his journal entries into a rough draft of the book that would eventually become Walden. There are many lessons in Thoreau’s writings, including:

“I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one.”

Thoreau seems to be saying that he was done his work at that juncture of his life and it was time to move on. There is a time in life for everything, but not to get stuck, to spread your wings, share what you’ve learned, share yourself. Recognize when it is time to move on and go.

Another lesson from Walden is: “What old people say you cannot do, you try to find that you can. Old deeds for old people, and new deeds for new.”

Thoreau must have known I would turn sixty this summer, and now that I went back and read his words, it’s time to sign up for the first ultra-marathon before the year is out.

To read the entire story about Thoreau and his time at Walden Pone that appeared in today’s edition of Writer’s Almanac, click here.

The fitting way to end this post is the way it began, with words we should all consider living by:

“Go confidently in the direction of our dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.”



About Jim Brennan

Jim is a Philadelphia-based writer, author, poet and editor for the Schuylkill Valley Journal.
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4 Responses to Thoreau – A Walker And A Thinker

  1. LB says:

    Jim, I really like this post, but even more, I loved your comments to Mary Lou.
    I so hope to get to meet you someday, have a cup of coffee or a cold one, and just get to know you better.
    Happy Gap Year 🙂


    • Jim Brennan says:

      Thanks, LB. The feeling is mutual. And I’m always game for coffee or a cold one. If you are ever in the Philly area, let me know. And if I’m ever down your neck of the road, I’ll do likewise. Be well.


  2. Jim, two quotes really strike me about this post. The first is an Emerson quote included in the Writer’s Digest link Emerson wrote in his journal: “Cultivated people cannot live in a shanty, nor sleep at night as the poor do in a bag.” The quote struck me in identifying how little has changed. As I run through Riverfront Park, I sometimes see people sleeping in a bag or whatever gives them privacy or cover and I’m sure are viewed as uncivilized.
    The second quote comes from your post and Thoreau “I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one.” No doubt this caught your eye as well as you turn (or have turned) the age of 60 and decide what in your life will equate to leaving the woods. Maybe we can install something like the “gap year” used by some high school graduates before continuing their education. At the age of 60 or 65, we get a sabbatical of sorts with an opportunity to take a break and determine what we know longer have time for. Likely families, friends and employers would balk.


    • Jim Brennan says:

      What I’ve learned in my years of traveling the country on business, Mary Lou, is that regardless if you are in Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, San Diego, Denver, or Seattle, I’d run by these people, human beings just like me, who’d be sleeping under a tree or under a bridge, in a box or a bag, after I’d just woken in a warm bed in a clean hotel room. People walk by the homeless as if they are invisible when they could very possibly have served our country in a war zone, or be mentally ill and put on the street because funding was cut from the budget for their institution. Most of those indifferent people who avoid looking at the homeless fail to realize that any one of us is one accident, layoff, or other misfortune away from living as they do. The homeless are human just like us.
      And I like the idea of “gap year.” I’m in sort of a “gap” now, or a “reset” on my life, catching my breath, looking at the road (or trail) ahead, recharging, and ready to go. Never stop!
      I’m so happy you commented, Mary Lou. Thank you.


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