I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil–to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society. I wish to make an extreme statement, if so I may make an emphatic one, for there are enough champions of civilization: the minister and the school committee and every one of you will take care of that (“Walking” Henry David Thoreau).
Transcendentalism is appealing to me these Winter days. The notion that people, and nature, are inherently good, is being tested nightly on the evening news, but is exactly what I need to wake and face each frigid morning. There is an optimism that is required to survive day after day of -15 starts and barely reaching single digits at noontime, never mind the wind chill or constant grey. January may be the start of a new year, but it can feel as if it is 365 days all on its own. Winter, certainly this winter, demands that we show our self-reliance and our gracious attention to our neighbors and friends. And by doing so, survive we will.
Nature alone, with her peaks of glory, help us see that what is without is within. The sacred soul-searching one does while meandering along wooded paths can lead us to a miraculous place. ” The Transcendentalist adopts the whole connection of spiritual doctrine. He believes in miracle, in the perpetual openness of the human mind to new influx of light and power; he believes in inspiration, and in ecstasy” (Emerson).
Inspiration and ecstasy comes on the wind when one summits the peaks, when one takes in the vistas below and the expanse of sky above. For my companions and I this moment stilled our busy minds and reminded us of this wondrous world we inhabit.
“… in the distant woods or fields, in unpretending sprout-lands or pastures tracked by rabbits, even in a bleak and, to most, cheerless day, like this, when a villager would be thinking of his inn, I come to myself, I once more feel myself grandly related, and that cold and solitude are friends of mine. I suppose that this value, in my case, is equivalent to what others get by churchgoing and prayer. I come home to my solitary woodland walk as the homesick go home. I thus dispose of the superfluous and see things as they are, grand and beautiful. I have told many that I walk every day about half the daylight, but I think they do not believe it. I wish to get the Concord, the Massachusetts, the America, out of my head and be sane a part of every day.”
– Thoreau’s Journal, January 7, 1857
Take a walk, get outside, hike the heights, and be sane every day. January will end soon…