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“Down-time” at Walden Pond

“Near the end of March, 1845,” Thoreau “borrowed an axe and went down to the woods by Walden Pond.”  Why did he go choose the word “down” when his woods were actually higher than his daily life in Concord? My answer is that down is the direction of our instincts for simplicity and stability, and of our understandings of geological origins, evolutionary histories, scientific laws, and the ultimate purposes.  We follow this instinct whenever we take “down-time” away from our complex lives, “get down” to the basics, “down-size” from our material clutter, and “down-shift” the pace of our schedules.

“I cannot come nearer to God and Heaven,” Henry wrote of Walden’s “deepest resort,” the “hard bottom and rocks in place, which we can call reality.” Above that granite point d’appui, the pond’s radial shape, acetic ecology, and exceptional clarity all result from the downward pull of Nature, a spiritual descent the Greeks called katabasis.

Robert M. Thorson explores this descent in his new book, The Guide to Walden Pond (Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt, 2018), using ideas downsized from his earlier Walden’s Shore (Harvard, 2014).  The bedrock reality is that Thoreau’s book of the place mirrors his place of the book.

Professor Thorson is a life member of the Thoreau Society, card-carrying geologist, freelance journalist, regular visitor to Concord, and author of four books about Thoreau, all of which will be available for purchase as signed copies.  An extended Q&A, conversation, and reception will follow his talk.

*Professor Thorson will also lead a walk at Walden Pond from 9:30-11:00 a.m. on Oct. 20th, sponsored by the Walden Pond State Reservation, a good preview for his talk.

Sponsors: Transcendentalism Council of First Parish in Concord and The Thoreau Society


Oct 20 2018


3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

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