NOW COMES GOOD SAILING
Writers Mirror on Henry David Thoreau
Edited by Andrew Blauner
Our 4-year-old son, Henry, calls it “my rock.” It’s proper close to our home in Harmony, Mass., and we go to it usually on the burial floor at Creator’s Ridge, the ultimate resting place of Hawthorne and Emerson. It’s the plainest but most spectacular of headstones, a small marble slab bearing a single phrase: HENRY. Earlier than Henry David Thoreau died on Might 6, 1862, he whispered 4 phrases to his sister which have all the time puzzled me, a minimum of till now — “Now comes good crusing.” It’s a wierd suggestion that the journey of life may solely really start after loss of life.
Thoreau by no means understood, and will by no means have guessed, how in style he would change into. When he fell unwell together with his last bout of tuberculosis, his masterpiece, “Walden,” was out of print. At the moment, thousands and thousands of readers cherish it and its name to “reside intentionally.” “Walden” will in all probability by no means exit of print once more, and the primary version, the one Thoreau struggled to promote for a greenback, fetches 1000’s at public sale at this time.
Why does Thoreau reside on? That is the central query answered by a exceptional anthology gathered by Andrew Blauner, entitled “Now Comes Good Crusing.” Anthologies are hardly ever exceptional. This can be very uncommon for any variety of iconic writers (a lot much less 27 of them) to workforce up in protection of their literary hero, however Blauner’s desk of contents reads like a “Who’s Who of Clever Trendy Prose”: Megan Marshall, Lauren Groff, Celeste Headlee, Pico Iyer, Amor Towles, Alan Lightman and Adam Gopnik, amongst 20 others.
Why does Thoreau reside on? As a result of we want him to. Thoreau recommended that the busyness of life — the frenetic tempo of our jobs, the calls for of our financial institution accounts, the standing that we search and by no means discover — ought to by no means be the unique focus of dwelling. Can we, as Lightman places it in his essay, free ourselves from the “rush and the heave of the exterior world”? That is the lesson of Walden Pond: that our instant considerations often obscure the vital ones, and virtually all the time distract us from what’s final, the possibility to reside and die with the data that we’ve got tried to “really reside.” This assortment amplifies the knowledge of Thoreau for an age that’s incessantly exhausting of listening to.
Groff echoes Thoreau’s instruction from Walden: “Take a look at a pond no extra miraculous than another pond on this planet, which is to say infinitely miraculous, take a look at your personal ponds no matter form they take … look deeply.” This isn’t Narcissus on the pool, however slightly the try to see your true self, and to reckon with what you may change into. Iyer is especially good on this level, writing, “Thoreau stepped away from the world solely in order that he would have extra to offer again.” Thoreau’s single job was to “enhance the nick of time.” That is simpler mentioned than finished. As Blauner’s assortment demonstrates, the duty continues for readers who negotiate our world of existential anxiousness, gross injustice, mass conformity and environmental degradation. Thoreau speaks clearly, urgently, for our time, however provided that we’re keen to pay attention and reside accordingly.
Essentially the most lovely essay right here can also be essentially the most bittersweet: a Thoreauvian elegy written by Megan Marshall entitled “With out.” Marshall is now with out her husband and nothing will deliver him again to life. That is, nonetheless, exactly what her phrases accomplish, expressing the underlying hope of “Good Crusing,” specifically that essentially the most significant moments, essentially the most significant lives and writers, are by no means totally misplaced. That is true within the case of Henry David Thoreau.
I hope our son Henry continues to return to the easy gravestone on Creator’s Ridge, to seek out which means and to seek out himself, so as to add yet one more pencil or pen to the pile that slowly accumulates at Thoreau’s grave. As Amor Towles explains, his “meditations lead us all the time towards a greater understanding of ourselves.” Simply as for an untold variety of readers, Thoreau’s writings will stay “my rock.”