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This sometimes stark, sometimes lush natural beauty is like water for the soul. Necessary element without which the soul dries up, becomes brittle, unseeing, dead. The vital connection is gone. I am so lucky to be here." I also copied quotes in my journal such as: "Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains," and "I went to the woods there to learn what it had to teach." In my youthful enthusiasm, I knew I didn't understand much of what Thoreau was writing, but I loved much of the book, almost as if it gave me language with which to see my life.
When I taught the book to high school students several years later, I had the sense that I understood less about Thoreau's project than I'd believed. I was decent at living, but bad at reading. I had no idea how to question thinking itself. To date, I have not returned to the book.
Now through Dan Beachy-Quick's eyes, I see: borrow, buy, begin. I want to read Walden again. "The Indweller's Aversion" sparks an exhilaration that I had when I was a young adult. Yet now it feels centered on an achievable goal: to make of the Old Parsonnage in Freeburg (the home where Silas and I live) my own wonderful investigation. To make it the center of the world. To do the morning work, the work of song.
In "Meditation in the Hut," Beachy-Quick investigates reading and says, poignantly, that "to read threatens the identity of the reader as directly as reading informs it." Are you open to being double, being multiplied, to be the horde of eyes looking through your eyes?
Our final selection, the prose story of "The Children, The Woods," shakes me up. This story of two children feels memorable although it is not my preferred style of short fiction. It is about being the song, about becoming through your life many things: a boy, an outcast, a prey, a grandson, a wolf, a brother. Note its heavy relationship to the essays. E pluribus unum, people.