Thoreau All By Himself
We've always wanted to go rogue and live alone in the forest, but then we realized that conversing with trees and rocks could get pretty one-sided.
|American Literature||All American Literature|
|Author||Thoreau - Henry David Thoreau|
|Literary Topics||Author Highlights|
Take, for example, Henry David Thoreau, who dropped everything so he could go live in
the forest for two years. Thoreau wanted a place where he could write
in peace, and where he could live out his fantasy of simple living and self-sufficiency.
So, in 1845, he decamped to Walden Pond.
It's true that Thoreau spent a lot of time wandering through the woods, communing with
Apparently, he had a Disney princess period, where he sang to small forest creatures and
carried on entire conversations with deer.
However self-sufficient Thoreau imagined himself to be, he wasn't really a loner.
His cabin in Walden Woods was situated on property owned by his BFF, Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Because he was still within spitting distance of his hometown of Concord, Massachusetts,
Thoreau constantly received invitations to dinner parties and barbeques and potlucks
and square dances.
He went to all these events, of course. Just because you're living the simple life doesn't
mean you have to say no to free food.
In fact, Thoreau was so not removed from civilization during his stay on Walden Pond that, one day,
he managed to run into his friendly neighborhood IRS agent.
After refusing to pay his taxes, Thoreau ended up in jail. Now that's self-sufficiency you
can admire. While Thoreau never really achieved the simple
life he was so enamored of, Walden… the book that chronicles his experiences in the
…has inspired many people to dream of living off the land.
The modern movement towards self-sufficiency is called homesteading.
Think for a moment about that term. Do primitive cabins in the middle of the vast prairie come
Does watching your herd of cattle freeze to death or your crop blow away in a dust storm
occur to you?
Do you think of horrible illnesses like the smallpox and dysentery?
Those obstacles were what American homesteaders of the past had to overcome.
Today's homesteaders, whether they live in the country or in an urban area, make products
to sell at farmer's markets and may have access to high-end gear like solar panels.
They have ATM cards, cars, and can go buy a pint of Ben and Jerry's whenever they want.
Wanting to be more self-reliant is admirable, but modern homesteading isn't as straightforward
as it seems.
If you're keeping a blog about your homesteading adventures while baking a cake in an electric
oven and running your whites through the dryer…
…can you really say you're unplugged from civilization?
Can you truly say you're enjoying the simple, self-sufficient life?
This was the same problem Thoreau encountered.
He was kinda, sorta, not really off-the-grid during his stay on Walden Pond.
Sure, he got back in tune with nature and gathered the material for a book that really
does have some interesting things to say.
But he didn't achieve the brutal self-sufficiency of those pioneers who homesteaded places like
Kansas and North Dakota.
Reaching that level of self-sufficiency would have required more than a quiet vacation by
a New England pond.