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To Live Deliberately . . .

17 June 2006

“I went into the woods to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what is had to teach. . .” HDT

As a child of 12 or 13 I did not fantasize about the same things other girls my age did. At times, there was the reading of magazines and thinking of movie stars and sports heroes, but largely I spent my time reading books. I rarely read pop fiction (The Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley High); overall I read larger works Christy, and Little Women. I was still deep into Little House on the Prairie, probably immature of me but something about all these books drew me.

Flash forward 6 or 7 years to college, I found myself enraptured by Thoreau and Emerson, seeking out Frost. Another few years put me in graduate school in a class titled Literature of the American West. Again, I was engrossed in the literature reading and reading as hard as I could and loving every minute of it, wishing for some land, a sheep, freedom, and peace.

Today I went on a bit of a hike. It was brief but beautiful and woodsy. The trail led to a very gentle section of the Lamprey river. There were what I will call red pigmy squirrels, about the size of chipmunks with rose red tails; I am quite sure I have discovered this species, although some may disagree. A giant woodpecker caught my eye, the largest I’ve ever seen. He reminded me of a dinosaur, not because of his size but the shape of his head; I though of Darwin. There was a small graveyard of 10 – 12 graves the earliest date on the tombstones I could read was 1850, but I am sure the others were much older cracked and decayed. As I was hiking, I thought of Thoreau as I passed through the woods and Frost as I passed through the meadow.

As my husband and I entered the trail, a family came out a husband and wife about our age and their parents one set at least.
The mother cried “people, civilization, Thank Goodness! I didn’t think we’d make it out alive.”
The father echoed by saying, “I hope you’ve worn bug spray it’s horrific in there. They will eat you alive.”
The younger couple laughed only agreeing that there were many mosquitoes. We not really having planned this venture had no bug spray. There were in fact numerous bugs, of which I have the marks to prove. These people didn’t seem to enjoy themselves at all they irked me.

I have been on a journey, a search for a very long time. I’ve been looking for the rawness of an untamed country. I have searched in vain. It is gone. I feel like Edward Abbey (read Dessert Solitaire). I will not have what Thoreau had; it is gone. I cannot forge a trail to some place special, because the special places are gone. I cannot live off the land, because no matter where I go there is at the very least a gas station full of “convenience” every few miles. I love my cell phone, car, and computer, but occasionally I wonder at what cost these things exist. I fear that we are becoming a people who have an impossible to fill nature cavity. I want to walk in a wood without trashcans or directions. I want to get lost. If the primitiveness is not there, I’m not sure that nature is the same.

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