Two hundred years ago, on July 12,1817, Henry David Thoreau was born in Concord, Massachusetts. His best known work, Walden, extolled simplicity and solitude. It was and is required reading in many high schools and colleges, usually held up as a premiere example of journal writing.
Thoreau often difficulties fitting into the usual world of employment, despite graduating
at the top of his class at Harvard. It is somewhat ironic that he sometimes found work at his father's pencil factory. But the reality is he made more of a mark with pencils than in making them.
Thoreau was an outspoken critic of slavery and the Mexican War. He was an advocate for the environment, long before the modern ecological movement. He is said to have inspired many of the important figures in the effort to preserve the natural world, including John Muir.
When I was a junior in high school I first encountered Walden. It was required reading for my AP English class. I was so enamored with it that I decided to be a bit more natural myself--and so I became a vegetarian. For six weeks. A pepperoni pizza did me in.
Still, I have long held a warm spot in my heart for the book and its author. (And not because of heartburn from those pizza pies!) I even co-taught a course featuring Thoreau recently.
On February 5, 1855, Thoreau wrote in his journal: "In a journal it is important in a few words to describe the weather, or character of the day, as it affects our feelings. That which is so important at the time cannot be unimportant to remember."
Enough of these ramblings--and on to the salutations. Happy Birthday, Henry! Might we always remember you and the lessons about life, nature, writing and civic responsibility you taught us.
And by the way, there's a thunderstorm brewing at the moment.