I offered, the other day to a fellow blogger, as a worthwhile read, Thoreau’s Walking, which is a brilliant tribute to the need for wildness.
This inspired me to search through my bookshelves for my yellowed copy of this brilliant essay. Along with my first copy of Walden, now in tatters but still in its rightful place-within reach on my nightstand as it has been for twenty years, Walking also remains with me.
As I reread the words that were gospel to me twenty five years ago, I find that the annotations and underlined passages of my youth still fire my soul with their electricity of truth.
Life consists with wildness. The most alive is the wildest. Not yet subdued to man, its presence refreshes him.
Hope and the future for me are not in lawns and cultivated fields, not in towns and cities, but in the impervious and quaking swamps.
I believe in the forest, and in the meadows, and in the night in which the corn grows.
How can one not cry out!
And I find that these lines ring only more true now, in these desperate times where so many are crying out for help and where so much that is good and whole is being irretrievably lost.
Nowadays almost all man’s improvement, so called, as the building of houses and the cutting down of the forest and of all large trees, simply deform the landscape, and make it more and more tame and cheap.
This essay is a clarion call to preserve something worth looking at! For a place where we can get out of doors.Where are we most friendly with our neighbors and strangers alike? I have been greeted and engaged in more friendly conversations as I walk stream valleys and hills than in shopping centers and stores. What more engaging conversation can there be than to share your morning’s sights with someone going where you have been? And, likewise, to hear what may lay ahead. What a joy to be asked for directions! To talk about what you have seen! To share something that Nature has given.
Last autumn, my son and I were wandering one of our favorite places deep in West Virginia. And, as is often the case, we were asked for directions (my son finds this, how often we are stopped, very amusing); it seems our fellow hiker had misplaced his maps and had become turned around. Out came the maps and our conversation began. Campsites, views, and where to find the largest spruce were just some of our topics. What could be more interesting! Fellow explorers, helping each other find new lands.
We are so pinched and rushed in our daily errands. How many conversations occur in parking lots and shopping centers? How can we be inspired to a meaningful thought or conversation, adrift in a sea of asphalt and concrete?
What creative thoughts can come from a landscape in which we play no part? How can one become little more than a cog in a machine when we can drive for hours and never escape something man has done to mar the view? What hopes and dreams of a new world, a better world can come to our children when all we leave behind is broken and subdued?
In literature it is only the wild that attracts us. Dullness is but another name for tameness. It is the uncivilized free and wild thinking in Hamlet and the Iliad, in all the scriptures and mythologies, not learned in the school, that delights us.
All good things are wild and free.