Connecting the Dots
There are three main areas of interest when it comes to seeing everything Henry David Thoreau in and around Concord. You’ll want to trip around the town of Concord with its museums and the cemetery, and you’ll want to explore the pond and beyond and walk to see all the sights relating to Thoreau there. And don’t miss the spot where they’re doing some deep thinking about Thoreau, the Thoreau Institute. With the itinerary below you can do all three.
Early check in or drop bags at Colonial Inn
Walking tour of Concord
Cocktails and Dinner at Forge Tavern Inn
Tour of Walden Pond
Swimming, Hiking and Private Reflection Time
Walking Tour of Surrounding Ponds and Landmarks
Dinner and Book Discussion at Merchants Row Private Room
Walden Woods Project and Thoreau Institute Tour
Lunch and Check Out
You could really go both ways on this. It would be a very Henry David Thoreau thing to do, if you walked and rode mass transit the entire weekend. However, that might get time consuming and exhausting. Driving would probably be the best. Luckily, there is free parking at the Colonial Inn.
Building the Excitement
A great way to build the excitement on a book club weekend exploring Walden would be to walk in Thoreau’s footsteps around the pond. He spent a lot of time swimming, or as he called it, bathing, and rowing and fishing and picking his own food. Split up and give each group a piece of paper with a quote on it. Then ask them to go out around the pond and do what Thoreau did. For those who paddle and fish there are boats to rent. Plan some free time so each traveling reader can write about the experience. Then later each of you can share how your experiences compared with Thoreau’s at the book club discussion.
“After hoeing or perhaps reading and writing, in the forenoon, I usually bathed again in the pond, swimming across one of its coves for a stint, and washed the dust of labor from my person, or smoothed out the last wrinkle which study had made, and fore the afternoon was absolutely free.” Page 151
“The water is so transparent that the bottom can easily be discerned at the depth of twenty-five feet or thirty feet. Paddling over it, you may see, many feet beneath the surface. The schools of perch and shiners, perhaps only an inch long, yet the former easily distinguished by their traversed bars, and you think that they must be ascetic fish that find subsistence there.” Page 161
“Sometimes after staying in the village parlor till the family had all retired, I have returned to the woods, and partly with a view to the next day’s dinner, spent the hours of midnight fishing from a boat by moonlight, serenaded by owls and foxes, and hearing from time to time, the creaking not of some unknown bird close at hand. These experiences were very memorable and valuable to me—anchored in forty feet of water, and twenty or thirty rods from the shore, surrounded sometimes by thousands of small perch and shiners, dimpling the surface with their tails in the moonlight, and communicating by a long flaxen line with mysterious nocturnal fishes which had their dwelling forty feet below, or sometimes dragging sixty feet of line around the pond as I drifted in the gentle night breeze , now and then feeling a slight vibration along it, indicative of some life prowling about its extremity, of dull uncertainly blundering there, and slow to make up it’s mind.” Page 158-159
“Standing on the smooth sandy beach at the east end of the pond, in a calm September afternoon, when a slight haze makes the opposite shore-line indistinct, I have seen whence came the expression, ‘the glassy surface of the lake.’ When you invert your head, it looks like a threat of finest gossamer stretched across the valley, and gleaming against the distant pine woods, separating one stratum of the atmosphere from another.” Page 168- 169
“Yet perchance, the first who came to this well have left some trace of their footsteps. I have been surprised to detect encircling the pond, even where a thick wood has just been cut down on the shore, a narrow shelf-like path in the steep hillside, alternately rising and falling, approaching and receding from the water’s edge, as old probably as the race of man here, worn by the feet of aboriginal hunters and still from unwittingly trodden by the present occupants to the land.” Page 163
Pick Locally Grown Berries
“The fruits do not yield their true flavor to the purchaser of them, nor to him who raises them to market. There is but one way to obtain it, yet few take that way. If you would know the flavor of huckleberries, ask the cow-boy or the partridge. It is a vulgar error to suppose that you have tasted huckleberries who never plucked them.” Page 157
Talking it Over
Who can come up with the easiest way to explain Transcendentalism?
What role did the world around Henry David Thoreau play in his development as a writer?
Who are the people who had the greatest influence on Thoreau? Why?
In what way did Thoreau turn his back on society? Why did he do it?
What does simplicity mean for Thoreau?
What does Thoreau feel about ownership and possessions?
How did Thoreau feel about food?
List examples of ideas Thoreau put forward in Walden that seem so common today?
Thoreau is said to have influenced some great thinkers like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and John Muir. Can you cite the passages that you think may have shaped their thoughts?
Thoreau’s thoughts about the railroad provide great insight into his thoughts on transportation and travel. What are his thoughts?
Thoreau is a social critic. If he were alive today what would he be criticizing? What would he be celebrating about our culture?
Thoreau is so quotable. Open the book and read any passage. Discuss it.
Walden is taking you back to nature. There are many jumping off points for gift bags, bed turn down gifts and prizes for big winners.
“This is the result of my experience of planting beans: Plant the common white small bush bean in early June, in rows three feet by eighteen inches apart, being careful to select fresh round and unmixed seed.” Page 147
What to do:
Thoreau planted a bean field at Walden. I thought for sure someone would sell seeds under his name but I can’t find Thoreau seeds. So you can just buy some white small bush bean seed packets and give them out as a gift!
White Bean Recipes
What to do:
Buy bags of dried white small bush beans. Give them out with some white bean recipes that you like. Or print out the two white bean recipes from this website which, incidentally, teaches you how to plant a Thoreau garden.
“Moreover, when at the pond, I wished sometimes to add fish to my fair for variety. I have actually fished from the same kind of necessity as the first fathers did.” Page 190
What to do:
Put a little fishing kit together. Get some tackle and hooks and a small fishing pole. You can give this as a prize. You never know, the prize could inspire someone to fish.
What to do:
Henry David Thoreau walked around with a walking staff. Your group can do the same thing! Go to the woods and pick out a walking stick for everyone in your group. You can decorate them, you can carve initials in them for the members or tie a ribbon on them with the names on them, and then hand them out before you go to Walden Pond!
Thoreau Food Products
What to do:
Thoreau Foods health food company is linked to Thoreau in name alone but you could order some Thoreau Foods Muesli snack foods for your hike around the pond and hand them out with the walking sticks.
Bracelets and Bumper Stickers
What to do:
I like this section on the Thoreau Society Gift Shop Website at Walden Pond. It’s the Deep Discount Section. I found bracelets here that say, “Simplify.” And there are also some great bumper stickers which have nice Thoreau quotes on them:
Thoreau and Emerson House Models
What to do:
You can buy a kit that will help you build a tiny replica of Thoreau’s cabin and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s house! They are about five dollars a piece. You can give them out as a prize or order one for everyone in your group for a gift bag.
Thoreau T shirts
What to do:
Order a couple of Thoreau T-shirts for prizes.
What to do:
Thoreau’s father made pencils and Thoreau worked in the business. They are not produced any longer but you could buy a pack of pencils and then print the Thoreau Pencil label and paste it to the pencil box and give that out as a prize.
Here is a list of songs you could buy on iTunes to make CD’s and hand out or just make one and play it through the weekend.
Fish on the Pond by George Harrison
Fisherman’s Blues by Water Boys
Night Swimmer by R.E.M.
Walking Man by James Taylor
Walkin’ Blues by The Dead
Walking All Night by Little Feat
Daddy Went Walking by Neil Young
Walking After Midnight by Patsy Cline
Walking in the Sand by Shangra La
Nature’s Way by Spirit
Mother Nature’s Son by Beatles
Secret Garden by Bruce Springsteen
Thorn Tree in the Garden by Eric Clapton
After the Garden by Neil Young
Walking by Waylon Jennings
Thoreau on Twitter
Follow Thoreau on twitter and get daily messages from him!
What is Transcendentalism, anyway.
Check out the tools Thoreau had to have to live on Walden Pond:
Thoreau’s Cyber House
How about building Thoreau’s house in Cyber space?
Thoreau the Pencil Maker