Samuel Johnson and think time

the thinker So extraordinary is our brain, it works relentlessly, never resting, always on the go; a thankless job. For how often do people go out of their way to pamper their feet with a pedicure, their hands with a manicure, their backs and shoulders with a message, and then their skin with a facial. Yet our sleepless brain only gets ridiculed in a way that it is called rather unpleasant names such as “dumb” or “loser”; it is even the subject of books that claim techniques to make it smarter or perform more proficiently. Yet, all it asks for is a place to lie down at night without being disturbed…and even under the most tranquil of conditions it continues to manufacture pictures and stories…our dreams. And then, are we satisfied? Oh, no! We complain that we had such a poor night’s rest because we “had a bad dream…even a nightmare!”

Alas…our brains continue to work at a feverish pitch but still we become impatient when ideas or answers do not come as quickly as we would like, although the remedy is quite simple… all we really need to do is give ourselves “think time”; a concept that was once exemplified as being even prestigious… so-much-so that people would gather together under the guise of being “a think tank”… allowing groups to ponder and contemplate problems without being ridiculed for being too slow. Today our brains are expected to manipulate information and multi-task even without taking into effect that the poor thing has not changed in composition nor evolved as fast as technology. It can only work as effectively as it always has done in the past, for the more we hurry the less accurate we become.

Slip into any social situation where there is a group of people and often the person who is the loudest and responds the fastest appears to demonstrate leadership qualities that others like to be around. The person who can spin a good tale, tell a joke well, or spout facts like a game of jeopardy often holds an advantage position. But do not despair if you are not firing back as though playing a match of ping pong; for in the game of chess to “checkmate” requires patience and think time.

samuel johnson 2 For today’s blog I bring back our esteemed thinker: Samuel Johnson, the 18th century English writer, critic, and man of tolerance. His writings covered subjects as varied as theatre, biography, politics, religion, travel, French, Latin, Greek, and Italian translations; as well as America, censorship, taxation, and slavery.

I invite you now to take a few moments of your valuable time and tap into some thoughts from his essay titled “Conversation”. I present to you the astute words of Dr. Johnson….

“None of the desires dictated by vanity is more general, or less blamable than that of being distinguished for the arts of conversation. Other accomplishments may be possessed without opportunity of exerting them, or wanted without danger that the defect can often be remarked: but as no man can live, otherwise than in an hermitage, without hourly pleasure or vexation, from the fondness or neglect of those about him, the faculty of giving pleasure is of continual use. Few are more frequently envied than those who have the power of forcing attention wherever they come, whose entrance is considered as a promise of felicity, and whose departure is lamented, like the recess of the sun from northern climates, as a privation of all that enlivens fancy, or inspires gaiety…

It is apparent, that to excellence in this valuable art, some peculiar qualifications are necessary: for every one’s experience will inform him, that the pleasure which men are able to give in conversation, hold no stated proportion to their knowledge or their virtue…no style of conversation is more extensively acceptable than the narrative. He who has stored his memory with slight anecdotes, private incidents, and personal peculiarities, seldom fails to find his audience favourable… “

* first photograph: The Thinker by French artist Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)

Esteemed thinker: Samuel Johnson

cuniform What we know of the past is chronicled by a few methods, either physical, such as archeological discoveries, by written documentation, or oral translations passed down from generation to generation. Our senses tell us that the physical discoveries would be the most reliable, being as we can see for ourselves the ruins of great structures or the fragments of daily possessions, such as crockery. Tales passed down shake our senses like a gloomy day; making us feel these narratives may be the least trustworthy for like the fish story, where the fisherman’s catch grows a bit longer and larger each time it is told, we have to wonder how much of the past has been embellished. And then there is the literary form of the biography, where we learn of the feats or defeats of said individual; here we are at the mercy of the author. We can only hope that the facts we read were accurately acquired. Was the source first- hand information transcribed like a stenographer or was the information retold by an acquaintance, neighbor, or distant relative? Was it secured through records archived with the care of a librarian, or found among letters of a scorned lover? Kind of makes you wonder.

Knowledge of the ancient times was documented by the Sumerians (pre-cuneiform) and within Egyptian Hieroglyphics. Plutarch (46-120 A.D.) the Greek philosopher and biographer wrote about the leaders of antiquity which included Caesar and Alexander the Great, while even Shakespeare wrote biographical plays such as “Antony and Cleopatra”. And as we move down the time-line we can parallel the bookshelves in the library and note the spines of countless biographies that continue to delight and intrigue us… and at the same time driving us to wonder how and where all these facts came from.

And so ‘we’ who reside in the present are destined to learn about the past and can only glean from others what life was like and the manner in which a particular person’s temperament and character was tailored for it is only through the lens and pens of those who document the days of long ago that set free and disclose such intimate and not so intimate details.

Who is it then that is worthy of a biography, or can we say is who is not …for each of us comes into the world as innocent and fresh as a new fallen snowflake and makes his or her mark with the same individuality.

Samuel Johnson Today’s blog introduces the esteemed thinker: Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), English born essayist, poet, literary critic, and lexicographer. Among many of his literary contributions, in 1755, after nine years of dedication, A Dictionary of the English Language was published upon which it was regarded as “one of the single greatest achievements of scholarship.” Dr. Johnson, as he was often called, was considered an extraordinary man of letters; having produced a body of writing and criticisms that include disapproval of colonial expansion, advocacy for the abolition of slavery, encouragement of women writers, and concern for the poor. Though he lived during the 18th century, his appeal for reform likens him to a modern-day figure.

Now, let me encourage you to take a moment from your day to read a portion from his essay titled The Use and dignity of biography.

“…I have often thought that there has rarely passed a life of which a judicious and faithful narrative would not be useful. For, not only every man has, in the mighty mass of the world, great numbers in the same condition with himself, to whom his mistakes and miscarriages, escapes and expedients, would be of immediate and apparent use; but there is such an uniformity in the state of man, considered apart from adventitious and separable decorations and disguises, that there is scarce any possibility of good or ill, but is common to human kind… We are all prompted by the same motives, all deceived by the same fallacies, all animated by hope, obstructed by danger, entangled by desire, and seduced by pleasure…

But biography has often been allotted to writers who seem very little acquainted with the nature of their task, or very negligent about the performance. They rarely afford any other account than might be collected from publick papers, but imagine themselves writing a life when they exhibit a chronological series of actions or preferments; and so little regard the manners or behaviour of their heroes, that more knowledge may be gained of a man’s real character, by a short conversation with one of his servants, than from a formal and studied narrative, begun with his pedigree, and ended with his funeral…

If the biographer writes from personal knowledge, and makes haste to gratify the public curiosity, there is danger lest his interest, his fear, his gratitude, or his tenderness, overpower his fidelity, and tempt him to conceal, if not to invent. There are many who think it an act of piety to hide the faults or failings of their friends, even when they can no longer suffer by their detection; we therefore see whole ranks of characters adorned with uniform panegyrick, and not to be known from one another, but by extrinsick and casual circumstances. “Let me remember,” says Hale, “when I find myself inclined to pity a criminal, that there is likewise a pity due to the country.” If we owe regard to the memory of the dead, there is yet more respect to be paid to knowledge, to virtue, and to truth…

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and fashion

bathing suit code ‘Clothes make the man and woman’… so goes the saying. And it must be true for what we wear on a given day can either lift our spirits or depress us. How often is the closet door opened and like looking into a refrigerator lamenting that there is nothing ‘good’ to eat, so mirrors a similar sentiment when you are about to embark upon a very special outing and what is suspended from the hangers appears as outdated as a 1980s haircut.

And what a dilemma it is to purchase clothes … for as soon as you buy something, it goes on sale the very next week. As for choosing what fits well …the sales clerk has that habit of remarking that you look simply divine, whereupon we often wonder if he or she is being sincere, politely kind, or giving you a positive nod of approval that is actually attached to the chance of a sales commission.

But who can complain for our stores are brimming, the shelves are overstocked, (except if you wear a very petite size you are out of luck for these items are seldom available). Our clothes are as divergent as the seasons; fabrics that were once worn in the winter… such as wool have been customized over the years, keeping us snug in the coldest of winds while preventing that interminable itch that once came along with the tight weave of your sweater against the back of your neck. And like the change of seasons so is the trend of fashions, making buyers acutely aware that what was once quite the chic attire must be set aside like yesterday’s news when the snow melts. Our only saving grace is that the older we grow the more wisdom we have acquired, for haven’t we seen those outdated fashions come back into vogue…it does take time but often patience pays off… the only regret is that one’s figure may have altered before the “yellowing” of fabric.

With our selections are invitations for us to make bold statements, demonstrating our own freedom of expression; an action that subliminally reinvents the present and asks others to make room for change. Some take little notice while others take offense; but whatever the response, fashion and the art of willful choices are not a new sensation.

elizabeth cady stanton 2 Today I bring back our esteemed thinker: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, author of the great “Declaration of Sentiments”, a revolutionary call for women’s rights in the early 19th century and president of the National Woman Suffrage Association for 20 years. In spite of her grand efforts, women did not get the right to vote in the United States until 1920; yet her resolve and introduction for an amendment in 1878 and her fight for change on the national and state levels paved the way to ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

So, let us hear the words of our great lady for she will present to you a more troubling and politically charged look at a women’s wardrobe from The History of Woman Suffrage (1881)…

“… Quite an agitation occurred in 1852, on woman’s costume. In demanding a place in the world of work, the unfitness of her dress seemed to some, an insurmountable obstacle. How can you, it was said, ever compete with man for equal place and pay, with garments of such frail fabrics and so cumbrously fashioned, and how can you ever hope to enjoy the same health and vigor with man, so long as the waist is pressed into the smallest compass, pounds of clothing hung on the hips, the limbs cramped with skirts, and with high heels the whole woman thrown out of her true equilibrium. Wise men, physicians, and sensible women, made their appeals, year after year; physiologists lectured on the subject; the press commented, until it seemed as if there were a serious demand for some decided steps, in the direction of a rational costume for women.

The most casual observer could see how many pleasures young girls were continually sacrificing to their dress: In walking, running, rowing, skating, dancing, going up and down stairs, climbing trees and fences, the airy fabrics and flowing skirts were a continual impediment and vexation. We can not estimate how large a share of the ill-health and temper among women is the result of the crippling, cribbing influence of her costume. Fathers, husbands, and brothers, all joined in protest against the small waist, and stiff distended petticoats, which were always themes for unbounded ridicule.

But no sooner did a few brave conscientious women adopt the bifurcated costume, an imitation in part of the Turkish style, than the press at once turned its guns on “The Bloomer,” and the same fathers, husbands, and brothers, with streaming eyes and pathetic tones, conjured the women of their households to cling to the prevailing fashions. The object of those who donned the new attire, was primarily health and freedom; but as the daughter of Gerrit Smith introduced it just at the time of the early conventions, it was supposed to be an inherent element in the demand for political equality.

As some of those who advocated the right of suffrage wore the dress, and had been identified with all the unpopular reforms, in the reports of our conventions, the press rung the changes on “strong-minded,” “Bloomer,” “free love,” “easy divorce,” “amalgamation.” I wore the dress two years and found it a great blessing. What a sense of liberty I felt, in running up and down stairs with my hands free to carry whatsoever I would, to trip through the rain or snow with no skirts to hold or brush, ready at any moment to climb a hill-top to see the sun go down, or the moon rise, with no ruffles or trails to be limped by the dew, or soiled by the grass. What an emancipation from little petty vexatious trammels and annoyances every hour of the day. Yet such is the tyranny of custom, that to escape constant observation, criticism, ridicule, persecution, mobs, one after another gladly went back to the old slavery and sacrificed freedom to repose…”

Esteemed thinker: Elizabeth Cady Stanton

animals The animal kingdom is a curiosity and for most, regarding relationships between off spring and parents… these beasts, both domestic and wild, are often enchanting to watch. I say enchanting not to affirm these bonds are always sweet and tender, but with the notion that they are captivating. And as we contemplate these relationships, it is equally curious to acknowledge how the elders know what to do with their off-spring. After all, they have no self- help books, no pediatrician to call when their baby koala comes down with a fever … so what is it that allows such animals the wisdom to care for their brood? Some say it is instinct, a trait that they are born with…thus passing down the knowledge from generation to generation … a sort of watch me and learn method…

And as humans, we like to personify these animals making some species seemingly more like us in their delivery of affection. A mother lion is known to be quite protective of her cubs, while the male secures the territory; a mother bear too will fight to defend her children, but like many other parents, she is strict disciplinarian, holding back the soft touch so that these cubs learn to survive in the harsh world without her. The father penguin is the modern day stay- at- home dad, taking on egg-sitting duties for weeks while the mother heads out to sea to hunt fish for her soon-to-hatch offspring.

But not all the parents of the animal kingdoms take on the devotional attributes at first blush; to our dismay that sweet little rabbit we all find so cute is actually an “absentee mother” leaving the baby bunnies right after birth and only returning for a few minutes to feed them in the first twenty -five days. And though we are ready to call in the authorities, in her defense she does not want her “tasty children” to be found by predators and so to keep these fiends at bay she stays away; not calling attention to her new family and allowing the secrecy of the burrow to remain intact.

And tough as the Black Eagle mom is portrayed by not intervening during sibling fights that are often to the death…she is really planning for the bigger picture…protecting the species by shielding and conserving the limited food source for the heartiest offspring.

So it seems that the upbringing rituals in the animal kingdoms have remained the same even though the physical world, their habitats, have been defaced by a myriad of reasons; thus making us wonder if their instincts, theses inborn pattern of behaviors, will slowly evolve and their method of ‘child-rearing’ will change too.

We humans are not driven by those instinctive, automatic, irresistible, and unmodifiable actions … but rather we are motivationally driven, able to overcome situations and change willfully. Child rearing is a behavior that is as different in ideals as from neighbor to neighbor. And while the centuries have slipped by, so have the philosophy of generations of parent- child relationships taken twists and turns, summoning societal and individual retrospection.

elizabeth cady stanton Allow me now to turn our attention to the introduction of a most esteemed thinker: Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902); writer, political reformer, and courageous 19th century woman. Born in Johnston, New York, she worked tirelessly throughout her life for the emancipation of slavery and the rights of women. During the American Civil War Stanton and her friend Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906) created the National Woman’s Loyal League to build support for what became the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which ended slavery in the United States. Once the slaves were free, Stanton and Anthony worked to ensure that women would be given the vote along with former male slaves.

I now give you the words of one of the most prominent suffragette’s and feminist in American history; from her book, Eighty Years or More, here is a parcel of thoughts from Elizabeth Cady Stanton….

“The psychical growth of a child is not influenced by days and years, but by the impressions passing events make on its mind. What may prove a sudden awakening to one, giving an impulse in a certain direction that may last for years, may make no impression on another. People wonder why the children of the same family differ so widely, though they have had the same domestic discipline, the same school and church teaching, and have grown up under the same influences and with the same environments. As well wonder why lilies and lilacs in the same latitude are not all alike in color and equally fragrant. Children differ as widely as these in the primal elements of their physical and psychical life.

Who can estimate the power of antenatal influences, or the child’s surroundings in its earliest years, the effect of some passing word or sight on one, that makes no impression on another? The unhappiness of one child under a certain home discipline is not inconsistent with the content of another under this same discipline. One, yearning for broader freedom, is in a chronic condition of rebellion; the other, more easily satisfied, quietly accepts the situation. Everything is seen from a different standpoint; everything takes its color from the mind of the beholder…”

Walt Whitman and our changing language

walt whitman 2 The more we know the more we don’t know…in other words, as we amass awareness of our world, through whatever means you choose, it becomes evidently clear that there is so much more than meets the eye; and as our interests grow, then too do we realize that we understand only a fraction of what is available… or what is not available to the intellect.

And as this vast amount of knowledge continues to expand like a field of weeds in the summer, so too does the terminology and acronyms that accompany such information. There are professions that appear to thrive on such abbreviated phrases making outsiders feel less than adequate… for example: JSON – JavaScript Object Notation, or PCI-X Peripheral Component Interconnect Extended … (and I thought java was coffee; and when did an X stand for the word extended! ) As our knowledge base flourishes; interestingly, our conversational vernacular seems to be decreasing as well as becoming more abridged….until we whittle away a complete thought in a modified text…Not that this is bad; just… shall we say…it is like taking one bite out of the cake..by-passing the lemon filling that the baker so intended for you to savor.

Authors that were once widely read by the literate public can be a daunting task in the 21st century. But one would have to wonder why… after all, with all our technology and availability to access information, we would assume that discovering Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Joyce, Flaubert, and even Poe would be less of a challenge today. However, in defense of present day readers, we can also take into account that our language has changed; whereby words and their placement within the sentence have been modified since the days of yore.

And then too there is that pesky nuance that seems to plague us…attention span… many folks do not appear to find that they enjoy having to decipher material that takes time. For many “time” is precious and therefore immediacy is gratifying…hence abbreviations have become the norm.

On the other hand, language can be simple and at the same time complex in idea; it can evoke questions, push to the limits ideals, but with these abstractions comes “think time.” Whereby I would encourage the reader to dip into the workings of literary geniuses as one would take a walk in a forest rather than running like a deer into the thickets, for we would not like all things to change in response to our impatient world… (I imagine that those who like their spirits “aged” would wince at the idea of stepping up the process… I rest my case!)

walt whitman 3 And so I bring to you our esteemed thinker: Walt Whitman, a man who changed the face of poetry during his lifetime; believing that the everyday language of his fellow American was and should be celebrated. He glorified people in all walks of life, nature, and the landscape we know as the United States. His direct and matter of fact ways, his connection with manual labor and heart transformed the poetic ideals of the 19th century… a most radical innovation at the time of publication.

Here is Mr. Whitman speaking on behalf of the more “playful , vivid, and sometimes taboo jargon” we are all quite familiar with… from his prose essay, let us take a moment to ponder a bit from “Slang in America” (1892).

“ View’d freely, the English language is the accretion and growth of every dialect, race, and range of time, and is both the free and compacted composition of all. From this point of view, it stands for Language in the largest sense, and is really the greatest of studies. It involves so much; is indeed a sort of universal absorber, combiner, and conqueror. The scope of its etymologies is the scope not only of man and civilization, but the history of Nature in all departments, and of the organic Universe, brought up to date; for all are comprehended in words, and their backgrounds. This is when words become vitaliz’d, and stand for things, as they unerringly and soon come to do, in the mind that enters on their study with fitting spirit, grasp, and appreciation.

Slang, profoundly consider’d, is the lawless germinal element, below all words and sentences, and behind all poetry, and proves a certain perennial rankness and protestantism in speech. As the United States inherit by far their most precious possession—the language they talk and write—from the Old World, under and out of its feudal institutes, I will allow myself to borrow a simile even of those forms farthest removed from American Democracy. Considering Language then as some mighty potentate, into the majestic audience-hall of the monarch ever enters a personage like one of Shakspere’s clowns, and takes position there, and plays a part even in the stateliest ceremonies. Such is Slang, or indirection, an attempt of common humanity to escape from bald literalism, and express itself illimitably, which in highest walks produces poets and poems, and doubtless in pre-historic times gave the start to, and perfected, the whole immense tangle of the old mythologies. For, curious as it may appear, it is strictly the same impulse-source, the same thing. Slang, too, is the wholesome fermentation or eructation of those processes eternally active in language, by which froth and specks are thrown up, mostly to pass away; though occasionally to settle and permanently crystallize…

Language, be it remember’d, is not an abstract construction of the learn’d, or of dictionary-makers, but is something arising out of the work, needs, ties, joys, affections, tastes, of long generations of humanity, and has its bases broad and low, close to the ground. Its final decisions are made by the masses, people nearest the concrete, having most to do with actual land and sea. It impermeates all, the Past as well as the Present, and is the grandest triumph of the human intellect…

Esteemed thinker: Walt Whitman

ink blot test Point of view; (or POV which I now recognize as a widely used acronym in blogs) is a powerful tool. It enables us to see through someone else’s eyes or if you prefer…walk in their shoes. And with ‘point of view’ we find many perspectives that we either share in agreement with or disagree wholeheartedly…because after all, it is a point of view. A point of view can be an appraisal or opinion; it even has its own literary term when the writer wishes to convey a particular posture… “the narrative view point”… when the story is told from a consistent perspective. It can be in the 1st, 2nd or 3rd person; singular or plural. Sometimes the narrator is all knowing as with the “omniscient”, sometimes as a speculative observer: objective, and then it can be a limited point of view through the scrutiny of a character: subjective.

But when we get to poetry, this genre takes on a whole new realm; for looking at life through the point of view of the poet is quite unique…so unique that many times the reader finds himself or herself disconnected or to the contrary… even more connected than he or she imagined possible.

For the poetic design is composed with limited verbiage; as though every word was a breath that was exhaled… giving life to the thought or idea. Then as we the reader inhales the image; it expands in our own minds allowing us to observe the big idea…and doing such… this point of view is bestowed as a gift that we may keep or discard..whichever seems most fit.

Whitman And so, I hope you will allow today’s blog to borrow a moment of your time for the esteemed thinker: Walt Whitman (1819-1892) ; a most extraordinary man, considered by many (including this blogger) as one of America’s greatest and most significant poets. Born on Long Island, Whitman lived in Brooklyn, N.Y. where his numerous occupations as printer, teacher, editor, and reporter led him to what his name is tantamount with, writer.. His most noted work; Leaves of Grass was self-published; inspired by his travels through the frontiers of the United States and his appreciation for Ralph Waldo Emerson. Although critics of his time were not always kind in regards to his work, his legacy as a monumental contributor to American literature has withstood even the most ardent of critics. Lastly, Walt Whitman is claimed to be the first American “poet of democracy”.

From his book titled Complete Prose Work, here is Mr. Whitman’s point of view regarding poetry.

“… Strange as it may seem, the topmost proof of a race is its own born poetry. The presence of that, or the absence, each tells its story. As the flowering rose or lily, as the ripened fruit to a tree, the apple or the peach, no matter how fine the trunk, or copious or rich the branches and foliage, here waits sine qua non at last. The stamp of entire and finished greatness to any nation, to the American Republic among the rest, must be sternly withheld till it has put what it stands for in the blossom of original, first-class poems. No imitations will do…”

I would be remiss to you, readers of this blog, if I did not grace this page with at least one of Walt Whitman’s poems. There are too many greats to choose… so I will keep to my theme…

When the Full-Grown Poet Came

When the full-grown poet came,
Out spake pleased Nature (the round impassive globe, with all its
shows of day and night,) saying, He is mine;
But out spake too the Soul of man, proud, jealous and unreconciled,
Nay he is mine alone;
—Then the full-grown poet stood between the two, and took each
by the hand;
And to-day and ever so stands, as blender, uniter, tightly holding hands,
Which he will never release until he reconciles the two,
And wholly and joyously blends them.

(To my friend and fellow blogger, Rohan, thank you for your suggestions!)

Henry David Thoreau and gifts from Mother Nature

fruit hanns skolle 1928 The earth, the sun, the rain, and man; put them together and often we cultivate a most harmonious synergy…the production of fruit. Without having to be reminded…for the agricultural industry and advertisements like to do this on a daily basis…most of us enjoy the byproducts of our very industrious workers…the farmer and his team of pickers… and we readily buy and eat without having to be coerced.

Let us consider the blueberry….for when it is in season, I make plenty of room in the refrigerator for its arrival, letting the lettuce and other more mundane items know that a special guest is to arrive. I use the term guest for like a relative that can only visit on certain holidays, its stint will sadly only be here a short time. Yet, I suppose we humans are fickle for as soon as blueberry ‘season’ dwindles down to those less than desirable plastic containers left over in the produce department; our salivary glands are once again acting like Pavlov’s dog.

Ahhhh, the cherry…now that is a most delectable fruit…but alas, her stay is much like the first flowers in spring…they appear for a short time to be enjoyed but for only that momentary occasion nature has allocated and then too…it retreats back while we temporarily mourn for its seasonal delight of return.

However, for all fruit lovers there seems to one type in particular that is always in abundance; the steadfast apple, a fine tasting fruit that magically avails itself during all seasons of the year. Much like a dog, it is dependable, forever wanting to please, and comes in many varieties and even colors…red, yellow, green, golden, sweet, tart, big, small, … they (who ever they are) were so sure of its taste that they even named one variety “Delicious” as well as touting its medicinal prowess…well… we all know the adage: “An apple a day, keeps the doctor away.” Oh, if that were only true! Even the trees that bare such a joyful fruit are first adorned with a multitude of heavenly flowers that perfume the air; tantalizing us with the thought of “what is to be”!

Thoreau_ Lake Waldon Thoreaus’s Cove at Waldon Pond

And so, today’s blog liberates once again the ever esteemed thinker: Henry David Thoreau: author, naturalist, and dear friend to Mother Nature; the man who helps us ‘see’ beyond the obvious through his writings and personal observations of the world around us. From his lyrical prose, Wild Apples, l have pruned a bit of his essay in order to take us on short walk through his thoughts.

“…Almost all wild apples are handsome. They cannot be too gnarly and crabbed and rusty to look at. The gnarliest will have some redeeming traits even to the eye. You will discover some evening redness dashed or sprinkled on some protuberance or in some cavity. It is rare that the summer lets an apple go without streaking or spotting it on some part of its sphere. It will have some red stains, commemorating the mornings and evenings it has witnessed; some dark and rusty blotches, in memory of the clouds and foggy, mildewy days that have passed over it; and a spacious field of green reflecting the general face of Nature,—green even as the fields; or a yellow ground, which implies a milder flavor,—yellow as the harvest, or russet as the hills.

Apples, these I mean, unspeakably fair,—apples not of Discord, but Concord! Yet not so rare but that the homeliest may have a share. Painted by the frosts, some a uniform clear bright yellow, or red, or crimson, as if their spheres had regularly revolved, and enjoyed the influence of the sun on all sides alike,—some with the faintest pink blush imaginable,—some brindled with deep red streaks like a cow, or with hundreds of fine blood-red rays running regularly from the stem-dimple to the blossom-end, like meridional lines, on a straw-colored ground,—some touched with a greenish rust, like a fine lichen, here and there, with crimson blotches or eyes more or less confluent and fiery when wet,—and others gnarly, and freckled or peppered all over on the stem side with fine crimson spots on a white ground, as if accidentally sprinkled from the brush of Him who paints the autumn leaves. Others, again, are sometimes red inside, perfused with a beautiful blush, fairy food, too beautiful to eat,—apple of the Hesperides, apple of the evening sky! But like shells and pebbles on the sea-shore, they must be seen as they sparkle amid the withering leaves in some dell in the woods, in the autumnal air, or as they lie in the wet grass, and not when they have wilted and faded in the house…”

(First photo taken in 1928 by Hanns Skoll)