SOMETHING TO GNAW ON

I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite – only a sense of existence. …O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.

•-H.D.-Thoreau-el-primer-ecoanarquista-Henry David Thoreau kept a journal, filling it with observations and reflections, literary excerpts, and personal comments. Journal-keeping isn’t new. It used to be called commonplacing. The journal, or commonplace book, had yet another name, silva rerum, meaning “a forest of things”. 799px-Flickr_-_Beinecke_Flickr_Laboratory_-_(Commonplace_Book),_(late_17th_Century) Commonplace books were a popular way for people to record striking passages they found in their reading, the wisest statements, usually of the ancients, for future meditation. Remember the electrifying effect that some thoughts had on you when you encountered them for the first time? 06600879 The commonplace book is a way of memorializing those tooth-and-talons gripping passages that you can return to for renewed inspiration. I admire my friend Sue, a bona fide notebook-keeper, with her years and years of soul-nourishing journals.  I’m too disorganized to have my own commonplace book. But I do jot down quotes, poems, ideas, and lists in one notebook or another, on a post-it, or across the back of the nearest cereal box.

Pursue, keep up with, circle round and round your life…. know your own bone: gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw at it still.

imagesPoet William Stafford liked to sit down with a pen and paper, look out the window, and wait for something to occur to him. He filled his journals with entries about simple things like farms and dead deer and winter. He wrote about the West and his parents and cottonwood trees. He even wrote a poem about …. his journal. A revelatory one.

What’s in My Journal

Odd things, like a button drawer.

MeanThings, fishhooks, barbs in your hand.

But marbles too. A genius for being agreeable. Junkyard crucifixes, voluptuous discards. Space for knickknacks, and for Alaska. Evidence to hang me, or to beatify. Clues that lead nowhere, that never connected anyway. Deliberate obfuscation, the kind that takes genius. Chasms in character. Loud omissions. Mornings that yawn above a new grave. Pages you know exist but you can’t find them. Someone’s terribly inevitable life story, maybe mine.

I write lots of amen-astonishing words in my own hand, carefully copying out the insights of people smarter than me. Like Anne Lamott, for one.  anne_lamott2

I like to think I’ll absorb and internalize their wisdom. Oh, and, taking a page from Henry’s book, I record my perpetual thanks.

Imagine ~ a book of thoughts, ideas, poems, whatever catches your attention day by day, being called commonplace. Gnaw on that.

Toni 11/26/14

Let’s put the ‘thanks’ back in Thanksgiving ~ volunteer.

STOP LOOK SEE HAWK

The question is not what you look at but how you look and whether you see.  ~HDT

To be awake is to be alive, Thoreau told us. Stop. Look. Go beyond the familiar. Scrutinize. Open yourself up to further possibilities. You may very well see something remarkable. A hawk may be waiting.

toni 3/4/13

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WHEN YOU COME TO A SILVER FORK IN THE ROAD, TAKE IT

                           
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  So many choices.  So little time.  
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In 1856, Thoreau wrote in his journal: “My themes shall not be far-fetched. I will tell of homely everyday phenomena and adventures. Friends! Society! It seems to me that I have an abundance of it, there is so much that I rejoice.”

Thoreau appreciated what is truly important in life ~ food, shelter, clothing, fuel and a few simple tools. He borrowed an an ax to build his cabin. He grew beans for fun and barter. He whittled pencils. And he lived about fifteen minutes away from his mother.

It’s a Walden Pond tradition to leave a rock near Thoreau’s hut.  But I think this visitor really gets it.

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(Photo courtesy of Teeny Pies)

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Thoreau’s intention during his time at Walden Pond was to strip away all superfluous luxuries and live a simple life. I’m all for that.  But good food, like a teeny pie, is not a superfluous luxury.

Thoreau thought a lot about his diet. He only spent about twenty-seven cents a week on food, frugal for even the 1850’s ~ rye, cornmeal, potatoes, rice, beans, a bit of salt pork, molasses, and salt.  He mostly ate grains and vegetables and flat bread, some fish… and once, a pesky woodchuck.

But Thoreau left the woods quite regularly to dine out with friends.  He was known to dash across the fields anytime the Emerson’s rang their dinner bell. Rumor has it that Henry would even steal pies from his neighbor’s windowsills.  I think the Teeny Pies blogger, saving the world one pie at a time, is onto something.

For me, going to the Vermont woods is a simple pleasure.  And when the dinner bell sounds, I make a beeline for the village of Manchester, a place “as refreshing in its way as the rustle of leaves.”  Straight to the Silver Fork.

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The Sliver Fork is an intimate six-table restaurant owned by award-winning chef Mark French and his wife Melody. It’s got an insanely friendly vibe. The masterful chef, who has received many Silver Fork Awards, comes into the dining room to chat, his wife works the bar and his daughter serves the tables. You truly feel like a guest in their home. The menu is inspired ~ impossibly stellar plates prepared with an abundance of fresh local ingredients. Thoreau would rejoice. It’s opulence on a fork.

So save room for pie.  And this.

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Toni 1/13/12