"Just a Few Yards Away"

I went to the Lynden Gardens deliberately, to seek solace with a friend who never speaks, but tells his story to everyone who will stop and listen {1}.  I went to the Lynden Gardens because here is a spot where the Spirit of Nature and the Genius of human creativity co-exist [1].  Mr. Thoreau, I think you would feel at home here; there are enough twists and turns to avoid falling into “a particular routine” (Walden 18.4).  Solitude and sanctuary abide here; nevertheless, not beyond my sense of hearing comes the sound of the “desperate enterprise” (18.10). In your day, you expressed concern about the pace of life, but can you imagine the ability of travelling 50, 60, 70 miles per hour, just to arrive on time for work or for play?  Cars, Henry - and I don't mean Ford - cars, cars and more cars.  Oh, that’s not all. That railroad you chastised bows now to the roaring angels in the sky <1>, travelling at speeds that defy gravity {2}.  Yes, I must inform you that your plea for “simplicity, simplicity, simplicity,” has all but become a faint echo of light as from a distant star (2.17). So I guess the “railroad of commerce” that troubled you keeps on rolling upon  “we the sleepers” (18.10).

Today, however, at this spot in the garden, I am surrounded by signs of autumn.  A brisk northwesterly wind rattles the tree-tops as the branches sway and the leaves give way <2>: some in glorious Monet color-splashes {3}, others in shriveled up shades of clay. ( What's a Monet you ask? He was a contemporary of yours, but you did not live long enough to see him blossom. I wish you could have seen his work, I know that you who went deliberately to Walden Pond would have enjoyed his Water Lily Pond painting at the turn of the century.) Every year, during this season of leave dropping and letting go, I wonder about my own journey back to the earth.  Will my leave-taking be an experience of just shriveling up with regret or will I go out with a color-splash of glorious gratitude{5}?

A little wren just lit upon the barren branch of the sturdy Norway Maple – below which I sit.  The winged one glanced in multiple directions and flit away like a poem in flight {4}. Perhaps she senses the need for haste in preparation for the coming winter.  So, too, the ephemeral Monarch butterfly passing by me at this moment: what little time you have oh kings and queens of the earth.  What little time we all have...Mr.. Thoreau, do you remember how you spoke of Time as “a stream [you] go fishing in,” and how you lamented the fact that you could not “drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars” (2.23)? Ever since my father died (two years ago this coming November), I’ve been casting my pole into the teeming life of the universe, wondering if I might catch a sign of assurance that he swims still in the vast universal sea.

Which reminds me, I want to return to my solitary friend whom I spoke of in the beginning of this essay.  He wasn’t in his spot today, -- he used to sit on the bench -- and yet I could still hear his silent story.  Gone, too, was his grocery cart filled with recyclables and loneliness. You see, he has no home and his name is legion. So many: veterans and victims of humanity’s war against itself at home and abroad.  I’m afraid you would be sickened by this war weary world of ours {5}. But you should know that your civil disobedience during the Mexican-American War, and the essay you penned about that Night in Jail, has inspired countless souls. Yet, I sense you would be grieved at heart and roused to protest the unjust social conditions of our times [2].  Like your age, optimism and desperation contend for the headlines.  They walk hand in hand like the sculptured couple just a few yards away: Just a few yards away from the cart, the recyclables, and the loneliness…

My fingers are getting cold now: not as cold as that sculpted hand-holding couple in the autumn shade <3>; not so cold to prevent this diminutive fly from landing on my left thumb, just as I typed the word couple – but in a heartbeat gone... Clouds are moving in, Time is passing (I have already been here for 50 minutes) and soon I’ll be out on the road going 50 mph.  Although maybe today, maybe I’ll stay within the limit. Maybe I’ll slow down to appreciate my single, solitary, unfolding story, composed, in part, on a Sunday{5} that will never come again in just this same mysterious way.  So, thanks to you and your Transcendentalist friends who inspired me to connect to Nature and the Soul of the World -- maybe I’ll perceive some further truth in my existence [3], so that I might not come to the hour of my death and "discover that I had not lived" (2.16).  Maybe not right away today {6}, but someday it will come like a little wren or tiny fly or like the turning leaf or a couple holding hands… How can it be that my life, unique as the day and passing as the season [4], found the path to this place of perception?  -- Yes, I am a privileged paying member in the Lynden Garden who has no right to put a price on Nature’s free gift of beauty and inspiration, and who feels a responsibility to listen, to learn, and to contribute {7}to the mysterious Song of the Universe.

 

 

If you include one or two (no more) photos of your spot, then I will add a couple of points on to your essay as bonus.
The expectation remains for two - three pages of written text: prose only or prose and poetry.
The photos can be inserted at any spot in your essay.

Excerpts from Walden (link)

Transcendentalism Revisited: Click Here

Transcendental Beliefs and Philosophies:

[1] - Live in the present moment. God, humanity, and Nature are one.
[2] - Reform social ills
[3] - Real and absolute truths exist.
[4] - Emphasis on the indivdual

Figuative Language

{1} - Paradox
{2} - Personification and Metaphor
{3} - Allusion
{4} - Simile
{5} - Alliteration (s in single, solitary, story, Sunday)
{6 }- Repetition
{7} - Parallelism (to listen, to learn and to contribute)

Imagery

<1> - Sense of sound (roaring angels in the sky)
<2> - Sense of sight
<3> - Sense of touch

Diction

brisk, shriveled, ephemeral, lamented and diminutive

 

A poetry example

 

Even the tall grasses must learn to bend --
Letting go of pride, privilege, and place
in due season.
They rise up, answering the call one by one
in summer's warmth --
They bow down, accepting the response as one
in autumn's chill --
The Soul of Nature lights our Way.

 

 

A STUDENT SAMPLE

L. G.

Mr. Wells

American studies A

10/12/14

It is the time that we sit down and appreciate nature like generations before us that we realize more about ourselves and the world we live in[1].  The few moments that this generation gets to spend with nature occur while running from one place to the next because of the hectic schedules we need to fulfill daily.  Our life has been taken over by the man made “necessities” including “talking through [cell phones]”, cars and any other possession that push us farther away from observing and taking time to completely comprehend exactly what nature brings to us [2] (Walden 2.17).  From the moment the sun rises early in the morning to the time the sunsets at night, living creatures of all shapes and sizes frolic non stop.  I took one hour out of a twenty-four hour day to sit and observe these wonders first hand.  

As summer changes to autumn and soon autumn will become winter, the world goes through many changes.  Short gusts of wind give the colorful autumn leaves the strength to gracefully jump off the trees which happen to be preparing themselves for a long dormant winter{1}.  Young kids can use these vibrant leaves to give them the thrill of leaping off the ground into the newly created leaf pile.  The trees, “be it life or death”, are truly thriving like a hibernating bear during the long winter {2} (2.22).  The worn out and broken down branches of the tree build a canopy over my head<1>.  The blue sky, including many clouds, peeks through the remaining leaves on the trees above me.  In my younger years of life, when I lived simply,  I spent hours faintly discerning the shapes in the clouds.  Laughing and enjoying what I could picture in the vastness of the sky.  The clouds formed shapes of birds, hearts and alligators from this particular view on this day.  

My “brute neighbors” which happen to be a set of birds, “[engage] in a deadly combat” which I perceive as a simple game of hide and go seek(12.12).  Watching this game occur made me realize that humans are not the only species that find ways to entertain themselves[3].  Flying in and out of the large birdhouse by the pond in hope that the other bird will not find him.  Flying around as if winter is not just around the corner.  Flying around as if they do not have a care in the world.  Flitting around as if their “affairs be as two or three”(2.17).  Suddenly, one of the branches broke and the bird fell to the ground barely catching itself by flying upward.  

Little bugs who will probably die as soon as the snow settles on the ground, flutter around the food that I brought out here.  One bug in specific looks as if he only has one wing.  This tragedy will lead to the end of his life if he can not get to a better state before winter comes.  He hops along my paper trying so hard to fly up into the air.  He attempted to use his one wing to get him up in the air just enough to get to the food in which many other bugs of his kind were taking pieces of<1>.  He seemed so desperate to get to the food that it would be “as important and memorable to those whom it [concerned] as those of the battle of Bunker Hill”(12.12).  The crickets, that call sequentially, seem to be having a casual conversation<2>.  The liveliness of the crickets contradicts the inactivity of their surroundings{3}.  The stream that flows typically from west to east does not have a current at all.  No animals are moving it and the stream is not flowing.  It is as still as a body peacefully sleeping.  Sleeping like the way the earth sleeps when the sun goes down.  The sun goes down and the creatures of the day bundle together with their parents for a nights rest.  The moment this sun goes down opens a new door of opportunity for the creatures of the night to come out and fulfill their daily routines.  These magical wonders of nature can be seen clearly when anyone puts on the glasses of Henry David Thoreau{4}.   

   


Figurative language:

{1}- Personification

{2}- simile

{3}- paradox

{4}- metaphor



Transcendentalist Beliefs and Philosophies:

[1]- Live in the present

[2]- Emphasis on the individual

[3]- God, humanity and nature are one


Imagery

<1>- sense of sight

<2>- sense of sound

 

The Transcendentalist Observation Experiment Rubric

From the Conclusion of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams,
and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours…
Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed and in such desperate enterprises?
If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.
Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”

Building upon your 12-day Observation Experiment, go “deliberately” to a new spot in nature and observe,
take your writer’s notebook (for 30 – 60 minutes), then create a two-to-three page double-spaced “essay”
in 12-point font that demonstrates a clear understanding of Transcendental beliefs, philosophies and concerns.
Keep in view Thoreau’s style at Walden (refer to your packet) and Emerson’s view in his poem, “The World-Soul” (see below) –
IF you attempt some poetry, your style might also echo Dickinson or Whitman. Your essay may be a combination
of prose and poetry or entirely prose.  Essays less than a page and a half will earn half credit.

Rubric (50 pts.):

The essay demonstrates a close observation of a fresh, brief (no more than one hour) encounter with nature

1             2               3               4               5               6               7               8               9               10

The writer connects the close observation to at least two specific tenets of the transcendentalist movement

1             2               3               4               5               6               7               8               9               10

The writer incorporates at least two quality examples of figurative language in a meaningful way

1             2               3               4               5               6               7               8               9               10

The writer incorporates specific sensory images that add to the message and at least five superior diction choices

1             2               3               4               5               6               7               8               9               10

The writer has created a carefully-edited piece formatted in MLA Style

1             2               3               4               5               6               7               8               9               10

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Reflection prior to handing in your essay:

My thesis as a writer:

 

The best portion of my writing:

 

 

If I could make one change about this piece of writing now: 

 

 

“The World Soul”

THANKS to the morning light,
Thanks to the foaming sea,
To the uplands of New Hampshire,
To the green-haired forest free;
Thanks to each man of courage,
To the maids of holy mind,
To the boy with his games undaunted
Who never looks behind?
Cities of proud hotels,
Houses of rich and great,
Vice nestles in your chambers,
Beneath your roofs of slate.
It cannot conquer folly --
Time-and-space-conquering steam -And the light- outspeeding telegraph
Bears nothing on its beam.
The politics are base;
The letters do not cheer;
And 't is far in the deeps of history,
The voice that speaketh clear.
Trade and the streets ensnare us,
Our bodies are weak and worn;
We plot and corrupt each other,
And we despoil the unborn.

Yet there in the parlor sits
Some figure of noble guise --
Our angel, in a stranger's form,
Or woman's pleading eyes;
Or only a flashing sunbeam
In at the window-pane;
Or Music pours on mortals
Its beautiful disdain.

The inevitable morning
Finds them who in cellars be;
And be sure the all-loving Nature
Will smile in a factory.
Yon ridge of purple landscape,
Yon sky between the walls,
Hold all the hidden wonders
In scanty intervals.
Alas! the Sprite that haunts us
Deceives our rash desire;
It whispers of the glorious gods,
And leaves us in the mire.
We cannot learn the cipher
That's writ upon our cell;
Stars taunt us by a mystery
Which we could never spell.

If but one hero knew it,
The world would blush in flame;
The sage, till he hit the secret,
Would hang his head for-shame.
Our brothers have not read it,
Not one has found the key;
And henceforth we are comforted --
We are but such as they.
Still, still the secret presses;
The nearing clouds draw down;
The crimson morning flames into
The fopperies of the town.
Within, without the idle earth,
Stars weave eternal rings;
The sun himself shines heartily,
And shares the joy he brings.
And what if Trade sow cities
Like shells along the shore,
And thatch with towns the prairie broad
With railways ironed o'er?--
They are but sailing foam-bells
Along Thought's causing stream,
And take their shape and sun-color
From him that sends the dream.
For Destiny never swerves
Nor yields to men the helm;
He shoots his thought, by hidden nerves,
Throughout the solid realm.
The patient Daemon sits,
With roses and a shroud;
He has his way, and deals his gifts,--
But ours is not allowed.
He is no churl nor trifler,
And his viceroy is none,--
Love-without-weakness,--
Of Genius sire and son.
And his will is not thwarted;
The seeds of land and sea
Are the atoms of his body bright,
And his behest obey.
He serveth the servant,
The brave he loves again;
He kills the cripple and the sick,
And straight begins again;
For gods delight in gods,
And thrust the weak aside;
To him who scorns their charities
Their arms fly open wide.

When the old world is sterile
And the ages are effete,
He will from wrecks and sediment
The fairer world complete.
He forbids to despair;
His cheeks mantle with mirth;
And the unimagined good of men
Is yeaning at the birth.
Spring still makes spring in the mind
When sixty years are told;
Love wakes anew this throbbing heart,
And we are never old;
Over the winter glaciers
I see the summer glow,
And through the wild-piled snow-drift
The warm rosebuds below.


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A poetry example

 

Even the tall grasses must learn to bend --
Letting go of pride, privilege, and place
in due season.
They rise up, answering the call one by one
in summer's warmth --
They bow down, accepting the response as one
in autumn's chill --
The Soul of Nature lights our Way.