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Lightning in a Bottle: A Chronicle of Wonder

Entries in Walden (1)


Life Less Ordinary

Maybe it was the soul-soothing retreat to New England, just completed. Or perhaps it was the quickening I begin to feel at this time each year—despite the languid days—as the seeds of autumn, still hidden, contemplate sprouting.

Whatever it was, it brought to mind Thoreau. And when I heard that today was the anniversary of the publication of Walden—155 years, and going strong—I was compelled to pull it from the shelf and revisit it.

After all, it had been quite a while; a re-reading was long overdue. The text remains the same, of course, but I've changed, and therein lies the magic—it's at once comforting and somehow unfamiliar, like a baseball mitt worn for the first time after an idle winter. There are few touchstones as powerful, as far as I'm concerned.

Any reminder to live deliberately, any exhortation to go confidently in the direction of our dreams, any admonition to live a life less ordinary is a welcome one... but who delivers such wisdom better than Thoreau?

When it comes to philosophers—to each his own, I say. But I think one could do much worse than the soul who, when in his final days was asked whether he'd made his peace with God, famously replied: "I did not know that we had ever quarrelled."

Oh, Henry.