American Transcendentalism: An Online Travel Guide

Boston

Concord

Walden Pond

Fruitlands

Salem

Amherst

New York

Maryland

America

At Home

Margaret Fuller &
Elizabeth Peabody

Ralph Waldo
Emerson

Henry David
Thoreau

Bronson Alcott

Nathaniel
Hawthorne

Emily
Dickinson

Walt
Whitman

Frederick
Douglass

Environmental
Heroes

The Shepherd 
Crowd

Journals        Poetry    Special Presentations    Syllabus    WebQuests     Links & References    About This Site


  Pages from Stacey's Journal

While reading Emily Dickinson, I was struck by the idea of mapping out my own, equally enclosed, space.

While at school, I live in a dorm, which means that my personal space is severely limited. The head of my bed is in the corner of my room, with the wall on one side and my desk on the other. This is my enclosed sanctuary. From this spot, waking up, I catch the first rays of sunlight, fragmented by tree branches and sparkling on the river, through wide windows. I’m an insular person, so I suppose having such a compact space is a natural living arrangement. I’m literally surrounded by my books—they pile up beside my bed, under it, in the closet, all only a few feet away. It allows me to unwind in an almost protected environment, to prepare myself for the day.

Everything that I need to survive for a semester at school, everything that brings me comfort and excites my mind, is within arm’s reach. As difficult as this living arrangement may be, there’s a degree of comfort in that knowledge. At home, I may have my own room with room to move about and a degree of privacy, but there is something in this seclusion, in having everything I need in such close quarters, that makes it equally appealing. I can see why Dickinson found the secluded life so appealing and, even though I do not wish to cut myself off from society, I do need these little enclosures, these quiet retreats, these contemplative places. I try and create my own insular world wherever I am, keeping my headphones on as I move through the crowd.

I once wrote a poem that explained cramming my thoughts into the limited space of the margins of a page, and in many ways I feel like that is what I’m always doing—squeezing my own thoughts, my own life, into tight corners, always bordered my these great works of knowledge and art. 


 

Walden Pond, on a clear spring morning, with a drizzle of rain and slowly shifting fog, creates an atmosphere of unending beauty and serenity. I’m sure Thoreau would have appreciated it, as I’m sure he lived for such days of quiet and stillness.

I can see why he picked this place. I’m a metropolitan person, heart and soul, though the Romantic in me will always be stricken by the beauty of unspoiled nature. Watching the fog simmer over the calm surface of the pond, it is hard to imagine anyone being able to resist such a scene. Just being at this location, seeing the warmth and intellectual solitude Thoreau created for himself with his cabin, I almost wanted to abandon it all and build a similar life. Moreso than reading Walden, seeing the lake made me clearly understand what a draw this must have been.

I resisted this urge and eventually returned to civilization, but for a few blissful hours I was strongly tempted. I challenge anyone who looked at that pond on that early morning to say that they did not have the same reaction. It’s a universal, inexplicable, incredibly powerful lure. Nature will always make us a little speechless in its splendor.

I can see what Thoreau meant, not only about living deliberately but about sucking all the marrow out of life, about getting everything one possibly can out of the experience of living. Even after leaving the pond I am filled with a sense of fulfillment, as though I have been recharged and it is now my duty to live as he did, in spirit at least, and take everything life has to offer, to grasp at it with both hands. Seeing the physical Walden Pond made the intellectual idea of Walden come alive for me and, even if I don’t go out into the woods to live, I can understand the attraction in it. I will try and live by his example and create my own Walden Pond—a place of unending beauty.


It is interesting how a simple meteorological change, an electric charge, can be felt all over the Earth and create a whole new world—albeit, one that will die in about an hour. Everything seems to be more alive when the rain hits it—the colors are deeper, closer to what I imagine is their true hue, the air is crisp and fresh and cool and addictive. I have spent the day dealing with the comings of a cold, very tired, and the light rain breeze against my skin has been such a blessing.

I have always loved thunderstorms. There is nothing more Romantic than the world when seen through a thunderstorm. It is a natural theater, with everything heightened and sharpened and given a cool gothic beauty. To me, nothing will smell sweeter than a thunderstorm. No perfume in the world could ever come close to matching its dramatic flair.

The bird’s sound is a perfect background for such a scene, as they harken the returning of the sun to this wonderful cool Earth. Sometimes I wish it could remain this beautiful forever, but then I remember that there is beauty to be found in all situations, it simply requires a keen eye. And if it were to remain like this forever, it would lose some of its charm. It would not have the same cleansing effect. It would not be so dramatic.

It is because it comes upon us so suddenly that we marvel at it and become lost in it. If it were an everyday occurrence, it would lose that air of natural elegance that imbues it. It is, literally and figuratively, an energy jolt. It is a spectacular show for all the senses.

There is just something about it that can never be properly copied, not in words or paints or film or memory. It is meant to be experienced at the moment when it is at its most energetic peak. It must be felt—felt with abandon, for one must ignore the petty concerns of life and take it all in, for all it’s worth. It is a fleeting expression of something greater than us that only those of us who were in the thick of it could truly appreciate.

It is a moment that rewards us for paying attention to nature, for allowing ourselves to get lost in it. It is a beauty made all the more lovely by the knowledge that only a select few will ever be able to taste it. But if others do not see, it is no matter—for the world is new and my spirit could not be higher.


"Emily’s Essence"

The rooms are cool
and heavy with the ghostly
perfumes of long-dead afternoons.
Fading purple light
stretches out toward you
from the side, and falls
cracked
and
crossed
on an uneven floor.
Intoxicating charm draws
breath, fast and tense, faintly
trembling with a touch of delight,
of disbelief.

Anti-climax sounds with the
shuffle of scuffed leather.

Another room.
Another memory.
Another intrusion.


  Take a look at a photograph from Stacey's camera.

Stacey Doyle  is an English major 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.