As we bring Thoreau to the stage in Hood River, Oregon over the next two weekends, I thought I’d give a nod to the great American writer and naturalist by sharing some little known facts about Henry David Thoreau. Considered a hermit because of his life alone at Waldon Pond, Thoreau actually followed the theme of this Land Stewardship & Community blog by being quite neighborly and a frequent host to his neighbors.
Henry’s $28.00 cabin at Walden Pond was not isolated in the wilderness, but less than half a mile to either the railroad or the main road into Concord, Massachusetts. He lived close enough to walk into town regularly to visit family and friends, often joining them for dinner at their houses. He also entertained guests, though ‘m not sure whether his guests included his many animal friends…he writes a lot about woodchucks!
Henry enjoyed talking and traveling with his close friends, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ellery Channing, Bronson and May Alcott, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. He even threw parties! Henry’s annual melon party, featuring his own delicious watermelons, was a popular event among his neighbors.
Henry went to Walden as an experiment in simple and deliberate living, not as an exercise in complete solitude. He felt that the distance from town helped eliminate some of the more frivolous visits he would otherwise receive while those people he most wanted to see would still make the effort to come out to his house.
Finally, Thoreau was active in community activities and politics. Henry tried to inspire his fellow townspeople to appreciate the wonders of nature that surrounded them. He mused on the many offices that the village supported, such as commissioners of trade and agriculture, and asked why there should not also be a commissioner of flowers, since observing nature was just as important an endeavor for the community.~