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. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary.
There are several things about myself that I'm still very shy to share. I'm coming to realize that the more I let Thoreau direct traffic inside my heart. He seems to be validating certain emotions and fanciful wishes that I, for the better part of my life, have repressed and suppressed for fear of misunderstanding. I wonder how many men live scared to expose this romantic longing for the woods, not for hunting or excavating or logging, but a penchant for the way the wind whispers to your heart and the smell takes you to places that blacktop and a laptop could never touch with a ten foot pole.
I used to run into the woods after school and dart back and forth around brush and over little streams to get to my favorite tree in the forest...a tall cherry that towered above the tree line. It was in the middle of a dense part of the woods so there were no branches for the first 20 feet until you reached the very top where the sunlight had a chance to pour out its blessed photosynthesis. Because of the rough texture of the bark, I could wrap my legs around the trunk and shimmy up to the top with velcro-like grip. When I reached the top, I would climb into a deformed crotch that formed a sort of nest. It was filled with dirt and little plants, a rich dark compost perfect for seeds floating though the air looking for fertile place to land. The tree must have been injured in its seedling or sapling stage creating this perfect place to sit and sway in the breeze. I would sit, hammock-like, closing my eyes and letting the wind rock me into an enchanted daze. I would look up into the sky and watch the cloud formations swirl and mix and morph passing by at the speed of the breeze. I would dream...wish...wonder...want.
The woods have always been a place full of teaching for me. I feel purged and cleansed of trivialities and pop cultural platitudes. I feel drawn to the things that speak deep to my, often, suffocating soul. There were squirrels that would join me in the tree top chattering with an A.D.H.D.-like temperament. Birds would almost land on my shoulder. Deer would play underneath me in the leaves completely unaware of my eavesdropping and voyeuristic joy. Animals would call back and forth to each other from opposite sides of the woods. There were some days when the wind was so fierce that the tree I was in would twist and make a creaking,cracking sound like it was about to snap. Its branches would give a high-five to the neighboring trees clashing like two little boys in a sword fight with fallen sticks. I was all alone...and yet I was not in some unspeakable way.
I have lost the deliberate nature of life. The kind of intentional pursuit of life that attributes value to virtues that get shoved aside in the interest of productivity and utilitarian usefulness. I miss the woods...they were my counselor and my confidant for so many years when I couldn't find a friend I wasn't embarrassed to admit my romantic tendencies to. They took me in like a latchkey kid on the street called "Dog-eat-Dog Ave." I was a stray. A gadabout restlessly wandering about for another soul to share my love for the unnecessaries of life, the things that aren't needed to survive, the things you can "get by" without. I was drawn to the superfluous sublimities of life. I didn't know if it was childish or silly or not, but I didn't care.
I just new that I was most alive when I was in the woods letting them tutor me in the art of living. Letting them school me and inform my passions. Letting them train me in the delicacies of being fully present in a moment...something so sacred it's almost sacramental. It was this kind of deliberate pursuit of joy that afforded me some of the most cherished of my childhood memories.
When I come to die, I want to know that I've lived. I, like Thoreau, do not wish to live that which is not life. But I'm coming to understand the kind of ferocious vigilance it takes to fight for this kind of life. You don't just wake up and hope for the best. This kind of life doesn't happen to you, you happen to it. Like the Psalmist said, "I will wake the dawn..." Most are woken by the dawn, while a holy few wake the dawn. Only a sliver wake up the day--happen to life.
And when you happen to life...you just so happen to live. It's a beautiful thing, really.