Sunday, August 11, 2013

Summer Reading - Walden

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

Dear Mr. Thoreau,

I recently read your book Walden and wanted to thank you for sharing your experiences with us. Did you know that you would inspire millions of readers to want to re-create your experiment and build their own cabins to live in? There is just something so appealing about the simplicity of your life on Walden Pond.

Your cabin is perfect. I love the the small, but workable size; the windows on both sides to let light in all day long; the wood shingles covering the outside; and the pretty fireplace at the end. I must commend your great eye for purity of design.

I was looking over your furniture list (in your chapter on Economy) and may I be so bold as to make a few suggestions.  The three chairs would indicate that you could easily and happily entertain two guests, but you only have one cup and two forks and knives.  You need to have a set of three of all your dishes and cutlery. I know you don't drink tea or coffee, but do your guests not want at least some water or cider? You did mention that you rarely feed your guests or give them something to drink, but it just seems the hospitable thing to do especially since your guests will have walked at least a mile to visit you. I would urge you to be more generous in this regard.

You mention the solitude you experienced in your cabin, but I hate to break it to you that being one mile from town is not really that remote. Let's be honest a mile is a nice saunter, a daily constitutional, not a long bush-whacking hike into the deepest darkest forest. Also the fact that you are able to have your mother do your laundry and you could join your friends for dinner just points out how not remote you really were. And between you and me, I think you should do your own laundry. It's really not that hard.

Your chapter on clothing really got me thinking.  You mentioned that you like to wear comfortable, worn, drab clay coloured clothing and even things that are patched.  It seems that this is more something a man would write than a woman (or at least this woman).  True, in the woods having old, comfortable clothes feels just right so you don't worry about getting your outfit dirty or ruined in any way.  However, as soon as I have to mingle with other people in an urban setting then I no longer feel comfortable wearing old and worn clothing. In order to not feel self-conscious about my appearance and thus relax and enjoy interacting with other people I need to be wearing something that is comfortable, flattering, and classically stylish. I think it is a mark of maturity to know what to wear in different situations so your clothing suits the occasion. 

While I thoroughly (see what I did there - I crack myself up) enjoyed reading your book, I do think you go on about things too much.  Take the first eleven pages - I had to skip read them as they were just too dull. I totally agree that simplicity in living is a good thing and reading to educate yourself throughout your life is a worthwhile endeavor yadda yadda yadda, but do you need pages to tell us about it? I think you should practice writing a little more succinctly. Maybe more of your time at the cabin could have been spent editing your written work. I hope I didn't offend you with that. I'm just being honest and you seem the type to appreciate that.

While I had to skip read the parts where you rant about things, I loved your descriptions of life on the pond, building the cabin, and observations about the seasons. In fact, I think you should expand these sections of the book. To help you out I made a list of some topics you might consider including in the book. What about discussing how you spent your days at different times of the year (you did mention during bean-growing time and a summer morning, but what about during the winter).  Also more details on what you ate would have been really interesting. I was fascinated about your rye and Indian corn bread and would have loved more details on how you made it. I also enjoyed reading your description of winter on the pond with your observations about ice and your notes about the first signs of spring. I bet you didn't realize how important those records would be to scientists years later studying climate change. Good for you for being so thorough (hardy har har). I would love you to include chapters on your observations of life at Walden Pond during summer and autumn too. I bet the pond is beautiful in the fall.

I hope my suggestions are helpful. I did find the book inspiring and have been dreaming of how I would make a cabin in the woods for my husband and myself. Since there are two of us, our cabin has to be a little larger so I'm working on refining your ideas and possibly adding a sleeping loft. I'll let you know when I have pulled my ideas together.

Yours truly,

Linked to Literary Friday at Art @ Home


  1. This is hilarious. :)

    I keep starting the book and then abandoning it. I will have to persevere and then come back to your post. ;)

    I certainly wouldn't mind a cabin in the woods. But mine would have a great kitchen...and a great bathroom...and a soft bed. Maybe a hot tub. ;)

    1. The trick is, if you're having trouble getting started, to skip the first chapter about economy. It does seem a little pedantic and detail oriented.

      And then you could also listen to the free audio book here: A completely legal free audio book by the way :)

  2. That is really clever and funny, Grace. Have your read the books by Helen and Scott Nearing? They called simple living, 'The Good Life'. For those of us who'd like the world to be a simpler place much friendlier to nature, they're a wonderful role model. You can read about them on Wikipedia.

  3. Oh I so want a cabin in the woods. I love the idea of a sleeping loft. I will have to pick this up. I have sort of "dreamed" of this idea but I am such a social person it would be quite the challenge.
    Great letter!!

  4. Your letter is so much fun!!!! Methinks he needed to read a book on hospitality before entertaining in the cabin. Thanks so much for sharing this with us and linking-up to Literary Friday!


  5. I "thoroughly" enjoyed reading your response to the book. You've got a way with words, and they pulled me right in.
    Thanks for coming by my blog today!