American Transcendentalism: An Online Travel Guide



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Pages from Levi's Journal

March 11, 2006

Arriving at Emily Dickensonís house was relatively unspectacular. Not knowing anything about her, I was visiting a neat old late Georgian house. Inside of the house, was more interesting, and It certainly was neat, being in a house where a person of such high esteem had lived. Venturing to the other house, the 2nd empire house, whose integrity had been undisturbed for so long, now that was fascinating. Especially the floors, they were beautiful, large irregular boards, of different wood, consisting of trees that were available at the time. Adding to the mystique of the house was the state of decay that it was in. while it is unfortunate, that the house is literally falling apart, having been subject to only preventive maintenance, renovations, would severely damage the integrity, and that would be worse a shame. The rest of the day paled in comparison.


March 13, 2006

As we were driving through Concord, I was looking out the bus window, admiring all the old beautiful houses, looking forward to another day of looking at cool old stuff, full of character, the kind of which does not exists anymore. We passed a house on the left, and with out knowing what it was, I remarked aloud to Liz Bessom that that house was spectacular, special, and perfect. About fifteen seconds, after my remark, we pulled into the parking lot for the Old Manse this was by far, the highlight of the trip for me. Walking into the house was something Iím not even going to bother trying to describe. I was spectacular. I can say with certainty, I saw EVERY detail no matter how slight. I was so intent on studying everything I missed almost the entire tour. At one point, I was reading Nathanial Hawthorns inscription on the window in the room on the north west side of the house, when the tour guide stopped, and said I love students like you, I turned, and she was looking at me. I have never had a teacher, or anybody say anything like that to me before, so I though she was talking to someone else, but apparently, she was excited that someone had found the scribe, before she pointed it out. The inscription was pretty cool, because, firstly it indicates total historic integrity, something I hold in extreme high regard. Secondly, I grew up spending summers in Maine, about three miles from Hawthorns boyhood home. I literally grew up climbing around on the same rocks that he did. Swimming in the same spots he did. Climbing down in a cave, many times where he hid from Indians. (Hawthornís Cave is actually on my grand mothers property.) The absolute pinnacle of the trip was when the grandfather clock chimed in the room next to where we were sanding, and the lady told us that the clock had not been serviced since the revolutionary war. That a machine could be that reliable is absolutely unfathomable. I consider that clock to be the most valuable single object on the planet, and I got to hear it chime. I would give my life gladly for that clock. Unfortunately, not enough time was devoted to the Old Manse. The rest of the day was rushed, and while Authors Ridge could easily have been another exceptional visit, it was cut short, and as such was not as enjoyable as it should have been. A full day devoted to these two spots, might not have been enough let alone one hour each.


March 14, 2006

Walden Pond is a nice place, unfortunately, there is no integrity left. It is still a nice place and I had a nice afternoon there. I did have some time to think about things. It is my observation, that while people pay homage to the transcendentalist movement, there little or no understanding of what it really means to transcend nature. (Not that such a thing is possible in an afternoon at a pond with the noise of traffic whizzing by) but inevitably, a modern person remarks on how beautiful a place is, and how they could spend the rest of their life there, then gets in their car to go to town to shop, or go to a restaurant. Point being, modern people are totally cut off from the environment. Itís a pretty picture, but not one worth studying for any length of time. ĖMUST HAVE DISTRACTION- I believe that this is why the environmental movement is destine to failure, because even those who proclaim to love nature and want to protect it, are basically unwilling to live in it, and by embracing the need for distraction and total comfort at all times and at any cost, they are as guilty of the destruction of nature, and for that matter the removal of transcendentalism from modern life as those who seek the destruction of nature as a coarse of economic growth. If this statement is construed as judgmental, and arrogant, than so be it, because the great transcendentalists writers who we came to learn about focused on wakening people up from there consuming stupor, and in doing so, were critical of their own contemporaries as well. I believe that if Thoreau were alive today, he would argue along with me. As of my visit to Walden Pond, I had never read anything by Thoreau, that night I went back to the hotel, and got all freaked out, and read Walden in total, his truths are self evident. But it requires more than just reading it to understand it, you have to live it, and I donít think that there are many people today that will ever understand his words in the deeper since that he intended.

  Levi Mason  is an RBA student at Shepherd University (Spring 2006).

"American Transcendentalism: An Online Travel Guide" was produced by students in ENGL 446, American Transcendentalism, and ENGL 447, American Literature and the Prominence of Place: A Travel Practicum. These courses were team-taught in the Department of English at Shepherd University (formerly Shepherd College), Shepherdstown, West Virginia, in Spring 2002 by Dr. Patricia Dwyer and Dr. Linda Tate. The courses were taught again in Spring 2006 by Dr. Linda Tate. For more information on the course and the web project, visit "About This Site." © 2003 and 2006 Linda Tate..