Yesterday I found an escape from this endless, dreary, frozen season, reading selections from Thoreau’s journals, a pen in one hand, coffee mug in the other. The best $4 investment I have made in a long time, maybe ever, language that lifts me out of this numbness of cold and helps me feel again, to see with new eyes. I read on the floor of our bedroom, swathed in a slant of light, until it faded and grew chill. I looked up from the book just in time to see the fat orange sun get caught in the twiggy brambles of the bare trees at the horizon. It glowed between their tangled fingers and slid on down, casting wan light on the polished undulations of snow banked outside the window, smooth, untrammeled, sparkling in flakes, like I’d imagine manna to be.
Thoreau’s words were a sort of manna to me, a much needed food for my malnourished winter soul. Page after page I was further revived, sparked into life by his attentiveness.
“We are as much as we see. Faith is sight and knowledge.”
“The best you can write will be the best you are.”
“Better a monosyllabic life than a ragged and muttered one; it its report be short and round like a rifle, so that it may hear its own echo in the surrounding silence.”
“A slight sound at evening lifts me up by the ears, and makes life seem inexpressibly serene and grand. It is the original sound of which all literature is but the echo.”
“The trees have come down to the bank to see the river go by.”
“It does seem as if mine were a peculiarly wild nature, which so yearns towards all wildness. I know of no redeeming qualities in me but a sincere love for some things. Therein I am whole and entire. Therein I am God-propped.”
“I want to see a sentence run clear through to the end, as deep and fertile as a well-drawn furrow which shows that the plow was pressed down to the beam.”
“If I cannot chop wood in the yard, can I not chop wood in my journal? Can I not give vent to that appetite so?”
“[Walking] away in the meadows, in the well-nigh hopeless attempt to set the river on fire or be set on fire by it, with such tinder as I had, with such flint as I was. Trying at least to make it flow with milk and honey, as I had heard of, or liquid gold, and drown myself without getting wet.”
“I find the actual to be far less real to me than the imagined.”
“You must walk like a camel, which is said to be the only beast which ruminates when it walks.”
“Cultivate the tree which you have found to bear fruit in your soil.”
“So far I am successful, and only he is successful in his business who makes that pursuit which affords him the highest pleasure sustain him.”
“My desire for knowledge is intermittent, but my desire to commune with the spirit of the universe, to be intoxicated even with the fumes, call it, of that divine nectar, to bear my head through atmospheres and over heights unknown to my feet, is perennial and constant.”
“We shall see but little way if we require to understand what we see.”
“How to make the getting our living poetic! for if it is not poetic, it is not life but death that we get.”
“We remember how we itched, but not how our hearts beat.”
“Are our serene moments mere foretastes of heaven . . . or simply a transient realization of what might be the whole tenor of our lives?”
“[Moonlight] is a light, of course, which we have had all day, but which we have not appreciated, and proves how remarkable a lesser light can be when a greater has departed.”
“My greatest skill has been to want but little.”
Yesterday, I contented myself to want but little, to relish only the warm taste of creamed coffee, the beautiful murmur of words on a page, the last light of a mellow sun on sparkling snow. It was enough.