Tag Archives: Henry David Thoreau

WeBLOG adobe las golondrinas

Window with bars, Las Golondrinas, New Mexico (2011)

A few notes from las golondrinas behind the bars:

Private business in cahoots with governmental agencies build solar arrays and oil pipelines that crisscross the American West.  Is this really necessary?  Tortoises are relocated — or at least a great many of them were — and wildlife corridors “will” be constructed to allow wild game to browse in the Great American West.  By all means let’s  power our cell phones, televisions and gaming equipment so that we can “see” nature on television, iPhones and earn all the levels of virtual combat games that we can boast about to our chums by e-mail on yahoo, gmail and msn.com.  Why, who needs “real” critters when we have “virtual” critters?

* * *

An old Native American narrative:  Grandfather takes grandson to see a river that runs between two mountains.  The river has cut a deep gorge between the mountains.

Grandfather:  Grandson, which is stronger, the river or the mountains?

Grandson:  (trying hard, puzzled)  The river, Grandfather?

Grandfather says nothing, looks at Grandson.

Grandson:  (trying harder to figure it out, changing answer)  The mountains, Grandfather?

Grandfather says nothing for a minute or two.

Grandfather:  Grandson, it doesn’t matter!

* * *

Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden that a telegraph line was being built to connect Maine with Texas.  He said, in effect, That’s nice, but will they have anything to say to each other?

* * *

On the topic of a lot things:  It doesn’t matter.

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Notes, corrections and additions:

“Los Golondrinas” is Spanish for swallows.

There is a huge solar array system being built out on the Mojave Desert between California and Nevada.  Chris of Coyote Crossing has tried to impede the construction of the array because of the tortoise issue.  See his blog on my bloglist below for further news of these “necessary” and stupendous power grids in the making.

The narrative about Grandfather-Grandson is courtesy of Blu Cooksey.

Of course everyman has his Walden, so the quote is in there!  Please go look it up.

The origin of “blog” is from the two words, Web and log.  I don’t know if the OED has caught up with “blog” yet.  “In hindsight, it seems amazing that I did finish [her translation] — and, indeed, that anyone working the British university system ever finishes anything…,” writes translator Susanna Morton Braund in her preface of Juvenal and Persius, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004.  Now, in my opinion, finishing the translation of Juvenal’s writing from Latin to English does matter.  Well, maybe not.

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Filed under Life in Balance, Life Out of Balance

Like a stag at eve

This past summer I read books as never before, tearing through familiar and unfamiliar authors such as Patrick Leigh Fermor, Henry David Thoreau (again), Aldo Leopold, Willa Cather, Tolkien, Ptolemy Tompkins, Stanley Crawford, Bertrand Russell, Frank Waters and works about communal acequias in New Mexico that urge me to decamp to the streams of the Sangre de Cristo and grow beans. Not since I was a boy with a summer to burn have I ravaged pages.

The words were all good, beyond good, and took me into a sublimity of things hoped for, places to visit on a pilgrimage. Each author found precise words to describe, to explain, the nature of things above, below and in middle earth (seems fit to describe it this way, although “universe” is apropos, too).

Patrick Leigh Fermor in World War II

Patrick Leigh Fermor’s travel and nature writing is so fine, so lush, that it reminds me of how Faulkner wrote of the South in prose so eloquent and deep. Fermor’s A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and Water traces his travel from the Spit of Holland to Rumania in 1934, at the age of nineteen. Recomposed fifty years later with memory and field notes, he describes Europe and its nature with eloquence that entrances his readers and urges a reclamation of by-gone periods of wildness and sociability among people.

But, Fermor’s solitude in the woods evokes his best writing. In the Carpathian Uplands, he writes,

I saw nobody all day; there were numbers of red squirrels, a few black ones, and innumerable birds; but the only larger creatures were hawks and, usually in pairs, languidly and loftily afloat around the jutting bastions of rock, golden eagles. Sometimes I was looking across wide bowls of tree-tops before plunging into them; at others, striding over grassy saddles or scrambling on those expanses that, from below, looked like bald patches; but most of the time I followed whatever dim woodland tracks I could unravel; breaking off, every so often, to side-step across unstable and irksome cascades of shale; then back along the branches. As usual, on lonely stretches, poetry and songs came to the rescue, sometimes starting echoes. I still had plenty of food; there were dozens of streams to drink from, many of them thick with watercress, and as I flung myself face down beside one like a stag at eve, I thought how glad I was, at that particular moment, not to be standing properly at ease on the parade ground at Sandhurst. Oxford would have been better; but this was best.

Patrick Leigh Fermor, Between The Woods and The Water, p. 205, NYRB edition, 1986.

How often have we hiked through the high country, desert even, and seen the change of terrain? Frequently, of course, and if our commitment is strong to write the log or field notes, we have captured the trek with descriptions of wet rock, noisy streams, smells of conifers and clouds that stream fast-by, racing clouds that yield no rain. Fermor brings eloquence and deep associations in his life together.

“Like a stag at eve” is lifted from Sir Walter Scott’s, Lady of the Lake, Canto I. As I reread Thoreau this summer I was struck by his classic references to Greek and Roman mythology. Such associations in nature writing enliven the prose and send me to the encyclopedia.

There’s just not enough time to read all I want to read. Life is short, so let us enjoy as profoundly as we can. And, enjoyment comes from reading Fermor and his trip across Europe in 1934. Europe in ten years would not be the same.

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Notes, corrections and additions:

Note to readers and subscribers: as the case often is with technology, I inadvertently hit the “Publish” button before I was finished composing. I have added additional paragraphs after the quote and corrected the spelling. I withdrew the post for a few hours to recompose.

As a boy, the canon included the Hardy Boy’s mysteries and back issues of Boys Life magazine. I looked for bush pilot stories and camping out under the mesquites and oaks of the Southwest. Then, as well as this summer, I stacked books and magazines that fell off the nightstand.

The stag at eve had drunk his fill,
Where danced the moon on Monan’s rill,
And deep his midnight lair had made
In lone Glenartney’s hazel shade;
But when the sun his beacon red
Had kindled on Benvoirlich’s head,
The deep-mouthed bloodhound’s heavy bay
Resounded up the rocky way,
And faint, from farther distance borne,
Were heard the clanging hoof and horn.

Sir Walter Scott, Lady of the Lake, Canto I.

Life is short, so let us enjoy it as profoundly as we can,” is taken from a Renaissance saying about living life to its fullest.

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Thoreau the philosopher: The hound, a bay horse, and a turtle-dove

The following quote of Henry David Thoreau reflects a symbolism, rather deep I suspect, of three sentient beings: dog, horse and dove (bird).  Historians and literary scholars speculate these lost animals never existed.  Like so many queries, further research is necessary.  My quick and dirty (fast, not slow or deep) study assumes that they did exist AND they represent Thoreau’s tangential thinking.  In part, the dog is companionship, friendship, association; the horse is the passion and energy of men and women; and the dove is the transcendental quality, possessed by all men, to break the bonds of family, religion, nation and materialism.

I long ago lost a hound, a bay horse, and a turtle-dove, and am still on their trail. Many are the travelers I have spoken concerning them, describing their tracks and what calls they answered to. I have met one or two who have heard the hound, and the tramp of the horse, and even seen the dove disappear behind a cloud, and they seemed as anxious to recover them as if they had lost them themselves.

~ Henry David Thoreau, Walden; or, Life in the Woods (1854).

* * *

And, in association with such tracking and calling, I submit my own experiences with hound, horse and bird:

Come here, boy, come here. I hear the rustle of grass and juniper brush before I see my hound.

One long high whistle, followed by three low-toned whistles. The gallop towards me grows louder, the ground shakes and earth is a-flying.

The dove comes back to be with its own kind, a cooing ensues and a dance. I reach inside their loft — they are accustomed to me — and pick one gently up and as I stroke its breast, it sleeps, head tucked under its wing. I lay it gently down and in the morning’s light it disappears behind the clouds.

* * *

Not trying to be didactic or professorial (I hate that, even in my own classroom), what do you think about Thoreau’s quote?  Should this quote be taken literally?  Symbolically?  Or both?  I’ll expect your comments by September 1, or I will have to check the non-compliance box next to your name.  So, let’s get on with the punishment, shall we?

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Notes, corrections and additions:

The original post contained only Thoreau’s quote and my three extrapolations about hound, horse and dove.  I added the first paragraph before the quote and added the questions at the end of the post.  The photographs have also been added — all additions occurred August 27, 2011.

I originally started re-reading Thoreau for a variety of reasons, especially searching for irony and wit in his writing, but I got side-tracked with this quote.

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Filed under Life in Balance, Nature Quote of the Day, Quote of the Day

Taos Council and Thoreau

Taos Pueblo, Kathy Weiser, Legends of America (2008)

I’ve not the citations in front of me, but I remember the stories.  One is about the time that the elders of the Taos Pueblo talked over the possibility of bringing electricity into the heart of the pueblo, there on the plaza with the flowing stream between the two big houses.

The Taos council decided not to allow electricity to be brought into the heart of the pueblo.  Outside of the plaza, electricity could be brought into homes.

The reasoning of the elders was that electricity brings with it appliances: refrigerators, toasters, radios and other machines.  And, with those machines and gadgets, people would have to go to work, earn a living to buy those things to plug into electrical current.  Introducing new technology would upset the balance within the community, taking people away from daily activities within the pueblo.  Ceremonies would be forsaken–or, less important– because of the pressure to work to pay for machines to plug into electricity.  Much would be lost and little gained.  A simpler life would be complicated.  A way would be lost, all by the introduction of electricity.

And, so, electricity never came to the plaza.  The plaza still remains the old way.

Henry David Thoreau, Green Mentality Files (WordPress)

The other narrative is somewhere in the Henry David Thoreau journals or maybe it was Walden.  Thoreau proposed a distance race and a puzzle to his readers.  Thoreau wrote that he could walk across Massachusetts faster than someone could take a train across the state.  He could start walking immediately, live off the land, do an odd chore and meet people as he walked across the state.  If one took the train, one had to buy a ticket.  To buy a ticket, one had to have money and to get money, one had to work.  So, before one could even board the train a whole sequence of things had to happen.  And, then, you had to travel on the train’s schedule.  To walk was faster, to travel the train was slower.  Race over, walking won, Thoreau wrote.

These two stories illustrate the dependency and attachments that occur when technology enters our lives.

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Filed under Taos