Saturday, June 10, 2006

Touched by Thoreau – II

This was going to be a comment on Aasheesh’s beautiful post on Thoreau but my responses came in fractured slivers and turned out longish, so I thought they had better be put into a post.

Have you been touched by Thoreau? he had asked.
When I first read of Thoreau in school, his life in Walden, his eccentricities, his individual spirit, he felt like a kindred soul. Everybody has Guardian Angels and he seemed like he could be mine.

Many years later, I was stuck in a job and in a life I disliked, feeling trapped and very unhappy. I had wandered into that situation and had no idea how I must extricate myself, whether I must and indeed, if I could. Then:
I have learned, that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
I had only Henry David’s word for it. I had been having altogether too many ‘common hours’ but then I thought, he must know. With that one sentence drumming in my mind, I escaped the life I had so dreaded and since have indeed met with success I could not hope for then.


Talk of Thoreau inevitably calls up another memory. I must’ve encountered Enid Blyton’s Tammylan around the same time I met Thoreau and to my young mind, they frequently meshed.

Siblings Rory, Sheila, Benjy and Penny go to live in the country in Blyton’s The Children of the Cherry Tree Farm where they encounter wild man Tammylan. As they become friends, Tammylan introduces the children to the inhabitants of the English countryside: rabbits, hares, badgers, otters, foxes, voles and squirrels. It is one of my most-loved books, but most of all, I fell in love with Tammylan’s homes, both of them. One, a cave for the colder months and a tree house for the summer that I would have given anything to live in.
It was by a backwater of the river – a quiet peaceful place, where moor-hens bobbed about and fishes jumped for flies. “A Tammylanny sort of place,” Benjy thought to himself…
It was a most extraordinary house. Tammylan had planted quick-growing willows close to one another, and used their trunks for walls. He had trained the top of these branches across for a roof! Between the trunks of the willows he had woven long, pliable willow twigs, and had stuffed up all the cracks with heather and moss. It was the cosiest house imaginable.
To me, Thoreau's cabin at Walden has always seemed like that tree house. Very one's own.


In Wildness is the preservation of the World.

‘Wildness’ (with the extra whump) reminds me of this book I enjoyed recently and a small aside in the story that captured my imagination even as it saddened me. Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan is a fantasy for young people, in which contemporary USA meets the Greek Pantheon. Racy and very entertaining.

But the aside that interests us comes from Grover, a satyr in the tale who is, like many satyrs before him, desperately seeking a Searcher’s License. The search is on for Pan, the God of Wild Places. Even as they speak, our hero Perseus feels a change in the air.
A strange breeze rustled through the clearing, temporarily overpowering the stink of trash and muck. It brought the smell of berries and wildflowers and clean rainwater, things that might’ve once been in these woods. Suddenly, I was nostalgic for something I’d never known.
In Greek mythology, Pan is the only god who is supposed to have died. However, the news was dubious, though certainly Pan seemed to have disappeared. Grover explains his quest:
When humans heard the news, they believed it. They’ve been pillaging Pan’s kingdom ever since. But for the satyrs, Pan was our lord and master. He protected us and the wild places of the earth. We refuse to believe that he died. In every generation, the bravest satyrs pledge their lives to finding Pan. They search the earth, exploring all the wildest places, hoping to find where he is hidden and wake him up from his sleep.
All those years ago, Thoreau was right: the preservation of our world does depend on how well we protect Pan’s domain. Wake up, Pan-God, reclaim your kingdom. Before it is too late.


Not one mention of a bird here, or birding, and this a blog about birding! But I plead your indulgence and quote in my defence CLR James who said: ‘What do they know of cricket who only of cricket know?’ So it is with birders – our interests scatter wide and how do you stop a ripple?


Aasheesh said...

No mention of a bird indeed, but plenty in there that speaks for those angelic denizens of Nature. The idea, as Thoreau saw it, is "to anticipate, not the sunrise and the dawn merely, but, if possible, Nature herself!" You don't stop the ripple but become it.

To take the road less travelled or to march to a different drummer requires a rare courage - Salud!

Sharada said...

Hey Sheetal!
Where did you get 'The Lightning Thief' from? I've been wanting to read it ever since I read a review of it in the 'Young world' section of the Hindu.

Sheetal said...

The Lightning Thief? Mine - will lend it to you.