Respite in the woods

Most of us are familiar with Henry David Thoreau, notably for his time of living in the woods for two years, two months, and two days. He writes in his book, Walden Pond:

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.

Thoreau was largely influenced by Ralph Waldo Emerson, and his essay “Nature,” which explains the idea of transcendentalism as the soul of the world, the soul of every man, where God resides. Living simply and in harmony with nature, we are better able to hear God, to trust the intuition of the soul.

It seems to me now that my time in Italy has become my own version of Thoreau’s Walden Pond. Certainly not intentionally. I planned a 6-week holiday, that was all. Yet, as I’ve experienced over and over again, life rarely goes according to plans.

After nearly three months of Covid-19 quarantine in Balestrate, looking out at the sea, it was time. Not time to return to the States. Time to return to the trees. Time to hear nature reveal the whisperings of my soul.

Tonight as I write this, some breed of pigeons are conversing. (I clearly don’t know birds- their rather passionate exchange is a kind of hooting.) Other birds are chirping. And others still are singing. A cat (go figure) is meowing incessantly. Last night I fed her milk, tonight the remains of my make-shift asparagus risotto. Now she purrs and won’t leave me. The air is fresh and soft and clean. The cooling night air tickles my exposed feet.

I needed this.

I have lived. My life has been rich and in some ways extraordinary. But I haven’t lived this. None of us have.

This moment in time is like no other. Will it pass too quickly? Is a return (to normal, to our lives as we were living) really what we want? I still believe we are – each of us, individually and collectively – at a threshold. Living in a liminal space. May we take the time to ponder, to reflect, to choose carefully our next steps.

I came to the trees to rest and reflect. Which may seem odd after so many weeks of doing nothing but watching the sea. Only, as much as I love the water, it’s not my element. (Despite being a double Pisces.) I need land and trees and things growing around me. This is my childhood imprint. Here, I am home.

Bruno, the property canine, is watching with me. Looking up, sniffing around, napping. Dog is my totem. And this is my landscape. Here is where I recapture, remember, and recommit to what I know. May you, in your special place, be able to do the same.

“The Supreme Critic on the errors of the past and the present, and the only prophet of that which must be, is that great nature in which we rest, as the earth lies in the soft arms of the atmosphere; that Unity, that Over-Soul, within which every man’s particular being is contained and made one with all other; that common heart, of which all sincere conversation is the worship, to which all right action is submission; that overpowering reality which confutes our tricks and talents, and constrains every one to pass for what he is, and to speak from his character, and not from his tongue, and which evermore tends to pass into our thought and hand, and become wisdom, and virtue, and power, and beauty. We live in succession, in division, in parts, in particles. Meantime within man is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related; the eternal ONE. And this deep power in which we exist, and whose beatitude is all accessible to us, is not only self-sufficing and perfect in every hour, but the act of seeing and the thing seen, the seer and the spectacle, the subject and the object, are one. We see the world piece by piece, as the sun, the moon, the animal, the tree; but the whole, of which these are the shining parts, is the soul. Only by the vision of that Wisdom can the horoscope of the ages be read, and by falling back on our better thoughts, by yielding to the spirit of prophecy which is innate in every man, we can know what it saith.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson “The Over-Soul” (1841)

3 Comments on “Respite in the woods

  1. The cat now owns you. By feeding the cat, you’ve unknowingly acknowledged your enslavement to the feline kingdom.

    Liked by 1 person

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