The Bus Book – w/c 10th March – On Walden Pond (continued)

As you can see I didn’t do an exceptional amount of commuting last week, and Walden remained the Bus Book for this week as well.

As I’ve progressed through it I’ve come to the conclusion that whilst I admire his ideas, I don’t think Thoreau would necessarily be a fun guy to spend an evening in the pub with.  I get the feeling from what he says that he was something of an aesthete.  I wonder if the ‘hair shirt’ attitude of some of today’s ‘extreme greens’ partially originated from here.  Sort of along the lines of if you’re enjoying it it can’t be truly environmentally friendly.

His description of the pond in winter is masterful, with a keen observational eye which brought the whole place to life in my mind’s eye.

I took a look at the Pond as it is today via the website here and also checked out a map from Google, below.  The map is movable – just hold the left mouse button down and move the mouse around.

View Larger Map

Even back then he was within a couple of miles of town – I suppose the invention of the car and the widespread use of bikes, etc. would today mean you had to be maybe 10-15 miles outside of the nearest village to get the same degree of isolation.

One final observation – in the ‘Spring’ section there is a amsterful description of the patterns made by sand in thaw-water flows, as well as the similarities between natural shapes – leaves, snowflakes, etc.  Given my interest in fractal mathematics it was hard to ignore the fact that had he been a mathematician Thoreau may had discovered fractals 100 years early!

Anyway…good book, worth a read…just don’t expect to find an easy read!

The Bus Book w/c 3rd March – On Walden Pond

One of the long term running gags in our family is that given half a chance I would either run off to live in the woods or become a hermit in a Monastery.  Well, I spotted this story recently that made me seriously consider it…

Here’s a guy who did it for almost 2 years – Henry David Thoreau, in the mid 1840s, spent time alone at Walden Pond, a couple of miles outside Concorde, Massachusetts, in a house he built himself.  There he studied his surrounding, wrote and further formulated the philosophies that eventually became part of the American Transcendentalist movement later in the century.

Part natural history study, part philosophy, the book has become a rallying point and source of inspiration for generations of American environmentalists.  For further information, see the entry on Wiki.

Last week was spent more at home than recently – so my bus based reading took a hit.  For that reason I’m only half way through the book.  The writing style is occasionally difficult – especially for those of us not well versed in the slang and culture of the mid-19th Century USA – but it is a passionately written and insightful book.

I’m enjoying it – I’m not able to read it in long chunks, but read a little, chew it over, savour it – think on it and then move on.  Perhaps that’s the way this book should be read.

It’s a fine book, thought provoking and empowering.  It’s also set me thinking about Bill McKibben’s ‘the End of Nature’ – perhaps I should dig that out soon.