July 4, 2011
But it chanced the other day that I scented a white water-lily, and a season I had waited for had arrived.
It is the emblem of purity.
It bursts up so pure and fair to the eye, and so sweet to the scent, as if to show us what purity and sweetness reside in,
and can be extracted from, the slime and muck of earth.
I think I have plucked the first one that has opened for a mile. What confirmation of our hopes
is in the fragrance of this flower!
I shall not so soon despair of the world for it …
From Thoreau’s speech at Framingham, July 4 1854,
later published as Slavery in Massachusetts
It’s the day in 1845 that Henry Thoreau officially moved in to his little house by Walden Pond, to spend the next two years there in his own experiment in Independence.
Nine years later, just as Walden was about to be published, Thoreau was invited to speak at a large Abolitionist Rally to be held in Framingham, Massachusetts. It was advertised in the Boston papers as a "Meeting for True Freedom on the Fourth of July." Due to recent events, such as the Anthony Burns Affair (see links below,) feelings were running high. Abolitionists spoke out against state and local governments who had laws supporting slavery. After speaking at the morning session, William Lloyd Garrison, editor of The Liberator, burned the Constitution in protest !
(It helps to understand that said Constitution would not be amended to outlaw slavery until eleven years later, in 1865)
Thoreau’s turn to address the crowd of 2,000 came in the afternoon –
after rousing speeches by Wendell Phillips and Sojourner Truth.Tough acts to follow !
Click here and here for two fascinating accounts of that day.
(If anything, it shows that, contrary to what many think of him today, Thoreau was no hermit, but was actively involved in social issues of his day.)
My Independence Day was a somewhat quieter than Henry’s was back then.
After a very busy week at work, it was nice just to have a few hours to relax.
I went for a walk in the woods with a friend.
It was my hope to find two particular plants, seen recently in Moreau Lake State Park, in a Warren County location. What I needed was dry sandy soil, and open sunny areas -- like those under powerlines.
There is a place like that in Cole’s Woods, a green gem set in the middle of Glens Falls. It is forested, with Halfway Brook meandering through its many acres, and also has a scruffy powerline section, with just the conditions I was looking for.
At the very last minute, I stopped at the house of my friend Ruth, who considers this woods her special place.
She enthusiastically joined me, and led me right to the sort of place I was looking for.
Along the way, the butterflies were flitting here and there –
And the slugs nodded to us as we walked past.
Very soon, we did see the first plant I was seeking – a wood lily !
Ten minutes after that, the second plant almost tripped us up as we walked by it – a clasping milkweed !
We found others of their kind out onlong the powerline trail.
I was very happy to find these new plants, and to be able to anticipate where they might be found. Just lucky, I guess.
We rambled along the powerline trail, finding other treasures.
Like ripening black raspberries.
Tonight there are many celebrations of our Nation’s birth-day planned,
most of them involving fireworks and other noisy explosions.
And lots of flag-waving.
My patriotism is of a different sort. Probably not in line with today’s definitions of it.
The United States as a nation has come a long way, and still has a long way to go toward her ideals. But I do love America. In that long-ago summer when I travelled to Alaska and back, camping all across this country, I came to love the land itself. From sea to shining sea.
So it’s three cheers
for the Red
and Blue-green !
And green …
And orange …
7 months ago