Sunday, December 20, 2009

In the wake of the storm

For all the folks on the east coast who are digging out from yesterday's snowstorm, two entries from the wonderful new edition of Thoreau's journals that the New York Review of Books Classics line has just published:
December 24, 1856
More snow in the night and to-day. making nine or ten inches.

P.M.--To Walden and Baker Farm with Ricketson, it still snowing a little.
        It was very pleasant walking thus before the the storm was over, in the soft, subdued light.

December 25, 1856

Take long walks in stormy weather or through deep snows in the fields and woods, if you would keep your spirits up. Deal with brute nature. Be cold and hungry and weary.
Now, as you settle into your third hour of shoveling, you can console yourself with the fact that you're just taking your place in a long American tradition of snow appreciation!


  1. What do you think Thoreau is saying in the December 25 entry? I understand that snowy walks are incredibly beautiful… if you’re bundled up. But he goes on, “Deal with brute nature. Be cold and hungry and weary.” Is T talking about masochistic pleasure? Or does he mean (and I hypothesize a continuation of the entry) “for this is the way to appreciate warmth and simple food and rest.”

    For me, on these cold mornings, to lie in the warm rays of the sun after a simple breakfast is the ultimate spirit lifter. But I’m not sure if it requires the earlier discomfort to make it so.


  2. As you said, Julian, I think he'd like us to really FEEL the harsh weather. Sort of a wake-up call from Mother Nature. It's much harder to accomplish these days, when we can layer ourselves with fleece and down. But the cold always has a crisp, cleansing feel to me. (At least for a while.)