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"I have great faith in a seed," H.D. Thoreau.

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Driftwood on Nauset Beach. Photograph by Elizabeth Kalman.

Henry David Thoreau’s encounter with Cape Cod begins with a scene of chaos. He writes, “…we found that the Provincetown steamer, which should have got in the day before, had not yet arrived, on account of a violent storm; and, as we noticed in the streets a handbill headed, ‘Death! 145 lives lost at Cohasset!’ we decided to go by way of Cohasset.”1 Coming upon the wreck of the brig St. John, Thoreau is confronted with a vast morgue, and is stunned by the chaotic destruction rendered to the ship by the sea. “The largest timbers and iron braces were broken superfluously,...

A Masonic image of the sun

  The town of Concord, Massachusetts, is widely known as the home of Minutemen and Transcendentalists. It is the place where “embattled farmers” fired “the shot heard ‘round the world” on the 19th of April 1775, and launched the war for political independence. It is equally famous as the residence of the writers Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, who more than a half-century later, waged a second American revolution for intellectual and spiritual independence. But had you come to this small town of some two thousand souls, sixteen miles west of Boston, in the mid-1820s to mark...

Willowell Foundation, Monkton, Vermont, home of the Walden Project. Photograph courtesy of Chris Mazzarella

At a time when educational reform programs have teachers concerned about their autonomy in the classroom, Henry David Thoreau’s early teaching career may offer some inspiration. It began in 1835, when Thoreau took time off from college to teach in Canton, Massachusetts. After graduating from Harvard in 1837, he briefly accepted a position at the Concord Center School, but resigned a few weeks later when he disagreed with the school policy mandating corporal punishment.

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Independent Gold-Hunter on his Way to California

On December 27, 1854, Henry Thoreau traveled to Nantucket Island to give a lecture titled “What Shall it Profit?” According to the advertisement in the December 8, 1854, edition of The Inquirer, one of the two island newspapers at the time, he was to speak as part of a “course of Lectures before the Proprietors of the Nantucket Atheneum.” The advertisement went on to say, “The Committee have limited the number of tickets, that the Hall may not be crowded.”  A good turnout was...

Detail, John James Audubon, “Spruce Grouse (Canachites canadensis),” original watercolor for plate no. 176, from Birds of America

Fourteen years before Henry David Thoreau climbed Mount Katahdin, and twenty-five years before his travels on the Allegash and Penobscot Rivers, John James Audubon and his family, who were traveling in search of northern birds and subscribers to The Birds of America (1827-1838), spent several weeks in rural Maine. As we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Maine Woods, we may want to consider the art and writings that Audubon produced...

Scot Miller's photography has been featured in many books and publications. He is the author of Walden: 150th Anniversary Illustrated Edition of the American Classic, Cape Cod: Illustrated Edition of the American Classic, and, most recently, Thoreau’s Maine Woods: A Photographic Journey Through an American Wilderness. Scot’s lifelong commitment to conservation is reflected in his photographic illustrations of Thoreau’s writings, his work for The Yosemite Fund, and his support for the Walden Woods Project, to which he offers his...

Scot Miller, Thoreau, The Maine Woods: A Photographic Journey Through an American Wilderness, Levenger Press, 2013.

Henry David Thoreau’s “Chesuncook,” the second essay of The Maine Woods, is well known for the controversy resulting from Atlantic Monthly editor James Russell Lowell’s decision to remove a now famous sentence referring to a pine tree.1 One hundred and fifty years later, Thoreau’s essay continues to resonate for another reason: its extended meditation on hunting, a pastime that attracts Americans to the woods throughout the...

Scot Miller, Thoreau, The Maine Woods: A Photographic Journey Through an American Wilderness

The question is not what you look at—but how you look & whether you see.

—Thoreau, Journal, 5 August 1851

Scot Miller, Thoreau, The Maine Woods: A...

Thoreau rocks

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.  —Henry David Thoreau, Walden

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The Gateway Arch is a 630-foot-high (192 m) monument in St. Louis

 In “Walking,” Thoreau not only defines sauntering as one of his cherished pursuits; he also self-consciously chooses a “perfectly symbolical” shape or contour for his sauntering journeys: "The outline which would bound my walks would be, not a circle, but a parabola . . .like one of those cometary orbits, which have been thought to be non-...

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