CARBONDALE – “What is the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?” asked renown author and naturalist Henry David Thoreau in 1860.
Today, the author’s question can be easily related to current-day issues like global warming. And 200 years after the famed author’s birth, this and other topics that strongly touched and inspired Thoreau then continue to inspire and challenge readers today, defining relevance for many now.
On Tuesday, August 8th, Henry David Thoreau will be reintroduced to those who studied him in school, and he will make his initial acquaintance with those who have yet to discover the insightful legacy of his works. He is most noted as a pioneer of today’s conservation movement, famous for his ideas regarding individualism, civil disobedience, and his strong dedication to the abolitionist movement. The always curious continue to study his basic philosophies, to see how they relate to and resound with us today. Thoreau wrote more than 20 volumes of books, poetry, and essays during his too-short lifetime (at 44, he died of tuberculosis). The numerous threads of this renown transcendentalist of two centuries ago still connect with people worldwide today.
To learn about the how’s and why’s of these connections, the public is invited to rediscover Thoreau – or perhaps discover him for the first time – during a 90-minute evening presentation given by Thoreauvian expert Corinne H. Smith when she speaks at the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce (97 N. Main Street).
Smith is a writer, poet, and outdoor educator whose “passion is Henry. I first met him in the 10th grade when some of his works were required reading. He intrigued me, and I began to follow his writings and teachings. But at the time, I didn’t read all of his most famous work, Walden, or Life in the Woods. It was too difficult to read completely,” she said during a recent telecon from her home outside of Concord MA. “But he made me so curious … about Nature, observations about individual rights, life itself, and so many things. So, I renewed the book from the library several times until I got through every page. By the 12th grade, I bought my own copy of Walden and read it again and again, underlining my favorite passages. I went on to study his journals in college and became even more fascinated by him. Afterward, he was always in the back of my head.”
Thoreau and his Walden resonated with the Lancaster native. So much so that after the former Penn State librarian retired, she moved an hour west of Walden Pond. “Thoreau was from Concord MA,” said Smith, “and I wanted to come here too.” Today, Smith is a licensed tour guide for the town of Concord, a docent at the Thoreau Farm Birthplace, she serves on the library staff at Anna Maria College in Paxton MA, and she has written two books about Henry David Thoreau.
Thoreau’s time on Walden Pond began in 1845 when, at 28 years and with a preference for solitude, he decided to move into a self-built one-room house set along its shoreline, to live there alone. Ultimately, he spent 26 months amid his own solitude, spending the time writing about the basic simplicity of living as he did and of his experiences amid Nature. “These experiences encouraged him to keep numerous records and charts,” said Smith. “He wrote about the blooms and birds, when and where things grow. He literally became America’s first environmentalist and ecologist.”
During this time, Thoreau also sought some meaning of Nature and an understanding of the human soul, while further acknowledging the difficulty of balancing the materialistic things in life with the more spiritual and the practical against the ideal. And given the time in which he lived, it is interesting to note how strongly he proposed that people move away from urbanized and industrialized areas that he believed coerced humans to obsess over economic prosperity, and where their overpopulation stripped Mother Nature of her resources.
“We need the tonic of wildness … we become like a still lake of purest crystal … we must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake … in my better hours I am conscious of the influx of a serene and unquestionable wisdom … we can never have enough of Nature,“ Thoreau shared among his works.
“Thoreau is the most quoted and least read American author,” Smith added. “Walden itself is a requisite reading in most high schools, but he’s noted primarily for his essays and various Nature-related writings. My mission is to inspire and excite others by fostering their own connection with Nature through words, music, and personal experience.”
During Smith’s upcoming presentation, she will also introduce and discuss her own books about Thoreau. In Henry David Thoreau for Kids - His Life and Ideas, Smith chronicles his short but influential life and engages young readers to learn about his cultural contributions while engaging them in various hands-on activities that bring his ideas to life. She will also discuss Westward I Go Free: Tracing Thoreau’s Last Journey. In this extensively researched book, Smith writes about Thoreau’s final and least-known 4,000+-mile journey in 1861 with American botanist Horace Mann Jr. during their travels from MA to MN. Having taken this same ‘Thoreauvian adventure’ herself, Smith expounds on countless details of the duo’s once mysterious excursion west, writing it for today’s lovers of Nature and life.
The August 8th event is co-sponsored by the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce and the ladies of T.H.R.I.V.E. For additional information, call 570-954-9443 or contact firstname.lastname@example.org. T.H.R.I.V.E. is a vibrant and ever-growing group of local-area women who network weekly at PersoNELLized Cakes & Café, 9 Park Place, to Teach, Help, Reach, Invest, Value, and Educate others.