Henry David Thoreau

American Ecology Nature Transcendentalism


Henry David Thoreau was born in 1817 in Concord, Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard College. From 1841 to 1843 he lived in a cabin near Walden Pond on land owned by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

He chose to live there to get back to basics; to strip away all the unessential claptrap that clouds our daily lives; to meditate and find God in nature. Because "finding God in nature" has become something of a cliche nowdays, many people do not realize this was a unique idea in the place and time Thoreau lived.

During the time he lived at Walden Pond, Thoreau was arrested for refusing to pay taxes. He said that one must not obey a law if that law is bad. He pointed out that the taxes would help finance America's war with Mexico and also support a government that believed in slavery. He spent one night in jail and someone paid the tax for him. No one knows for sure who paid it but they believe it was his aunt. He was angry and wanted to stay in jail but they kicked him out. He called his refusal to pay the tax "Civil Disobedience" and this was a model for the 60's anti-war protestors and Black leaders like Martin Luther King.

During the late 1960's and early 70's, conservation of our natural resources became very popular, and Henry David Thoreau has been cited by some as the "Father of Conservation." His book 'Walden' was the first book about what would later be called "ecology".

Thoreau died at the age of 44 from tuberculosis on May 6, 1862. It was a short life, but then, he had written his first poems when he was around 12 years old.

Something that stuck with me when I was in the 10th grade was that Thoreau was always walking. He would be seen walking all around Concord, Mass and sometimes talking to his friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson. I could walk for miles as a kid. I walked across my small home-town in Virginia and across Interstate 81 and into the fields and woods beyond. I breathed the delicious air and marvelled at majestic clouds and intrigued at furtive little animals and bugs in their holes and hiding places. I believe the Virginia countryside and climate is a lot closer to Concord, Mass (with it's changing seasons and rich soil) than where I live now in Florida (with it's thorny alien plant-life, flat sandy soil, and jaggedy-aztec sun). I have recently started going for walks again. There is something about physical activity that releases something in the brain which elevates ones mood.

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