For years I've read Thoreau. My visits with his writings usually come in five year cycles and there is always the same pattern: I always read the same two pieces (Walden and Walking), I record the exact same quotes in my journal, the visit usually last for 6-12 months, and I hope for some change in my life.
On my second visit with Thoreau, I turned to collecting all sorts of written accounts of people quitting their jobs and going off to live in some remote wilderness, usually building their own small cabin and living a life close to Nature. They were more my contemporaries than Thoreau, so I dreamed of catching a life like theirs. I was only 24.
During my third visit, I lived in Cairo--a big, smelly, overcrowded city--far from the ash, the maple, and the pine, and while I found myself longing for the beauty of the natural world, especially its smells and sounds, I learned how Thoreau not only speaks in metaphors but sees the external world mirroring the internal one. Not surprisingly, my Cairo visits with Thoreau were mostly about the inner, more mystical world.
My fourth visit, just five years ago, came at a time when I was longing for a more simple, grounded life. After three children in six years, and three international moves that landed me in Scotland, my life seemed more complicated. My desire to live more locally and with greater intention manifested in a local diet, so I grew a garden. I began to see all sorts of Thoreau-like characters around me, people who longed for a more simple life, close to Nature--real individualists, living authentically.
I am pretty sure I've begun my fifth visit with Thoreau because I spent all last weekend copying down those same quotes I've copied four times before. Why my hands follow my will, I do not know. It is tiring and I am not sure how useful this endeavour actually is. Will these words stick this time? Will I find something new?
Ah, and so my visit begins again. I feel slightly giddy about where Thoreau might take me this time. I am already surveying my inner and outer worlds, already dreaming my same old dreams (how come they have not really changed in twenty years?), and wondering how this visit will be different.
But for now, I keep my morning date with the sunrise--a small red thread called "the awakening hour."
And here's to waking up again and again and again.