Walking in the woods (of life) Thoreau style…

a walk in the woods, Newfoundland (2000)

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.  I did not wish to live what was not life, living is too dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary.  I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartanlike as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.”     Henry David Thoreau (from Walden)

I remember first hearing this favorite quote while watching ‘Dead Poets Society’ in the theatre, then going back to see the movie again notebook in hand (actually three more times – what an amazing movie!)   When I was younger, it seemed like a good maxim – carpe diem and all that. I always thought God wanted us to have fun, ABUNDANTLY(!)  So ironic to end up as a relief & development worker in conflict zones (where ‘fun’ became dodging bullets, bombs, landmines and irritable colleagues…)

Still, although life IS difficult, I think sometimes the difficult times are when we really LIVE.  It’s not just about having fun abundantly in good times, but in the tough times realizing that fun is actually possible (not always easy … but possible.)

I spent some of the most amazing days of my life in refugee camps where sewage ran through the streets & people where shot (regularly.)  How was fun possible in the middle of that?  Laughter. It often transcends challenges & makes what’s on your plate a little lighter. I laughed so hard I cried with some of my buddies in the camps… of course, there were times we cried (buckets) for real.

Pranks also helped. My boss smoked LOTS, so we gave him an ashtray that coughed when used – seriously,  it went ‘aack, aaach, aack’, then we’d see smoke wafting toward our offices.  One of our team hid my passport for a day to see if I would enter a higher plane of hyper-activeness looking for it (her strategy worked amazingly well!)

So, whatever you’re facing – if life is mean at the moment – take a walk in the woods & take a few deep breaths. See if Thoreau’s ‘living deeply’ is possible. If that doesn’t work, read a funny book (Calvin & HObbes, Farside…) or watch ‘Yes Minister’ until you hear a few rumbles from your laughter chords…

Laugh… breathe deeply…. laugh again… breathe deliberately…


grace, peace & deep living strategies*

Virginia  : )

* prayers are always good 1st strategy (makes the rest possible!)

This entry was posted in Life (in general), Quotes and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Walking in the woods (of life) Thoreau style…

  1. Cindy Kranich says:

    This really resonated with me today … great advice given, too!

  2. Virginia says:

    Cin – know how much you love to walk(!) go outside, especially on this most glorious Fall Day.. Enjoy !!! Reflect !! Live DEEP!!! Breathe DEEP!!! Enjoy DEEP!!! (ok, do it all DEEPLY… : )

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.