Sunday, January 19, 2014


January 9, 2014
Hudson Falls, NY

We must go out and re-ally ourselves to Nature every day.
We must make root,
send out some little fibre at least,
even every winter day.
I am sensible that I am imbibing health
when I open my mouth to the wind.
Staying in the house breeds a sort of insanity always.
Every house is in this sense a hospital.
A night and a forenoon is as much confinement to those wards
as I can stand.
I am aware that I recover some sanity which I had lost
almost the instant that I come abroad.
    HDT Journal, December 29, 1856

Oh, it’s been far too long since my last entry ...
Since just before Christmas, I’d been fighting a cough.
No stuffiness, or general malaise, just a wearying dry cough that came and went.
I’d feel good one day, then lousy the next two.
(that wonderful New Year’s Day walk was one of the good days.)
Then some truly frigid air arrived;

a few days later: rain; 

then more cold,
and more rain –
and for a little variety, a dash of snow and wind.

The skies have been dark, cloudy 

and factory- gray.

All the while, I felt fragile and peevish.
I chose to stay indoors in my free time, not doing much of anything, really,
even turning down Jackie when she tried to get me out walking
on a sunny -- but cold -- day.
And at work, everyone was coughing and sneezing !

I guess I brought this on myself.
My resistance was low after a holiday recipe of
working hard, eating badly, and skipping exercise.
There was no point in trying to run, even indoors – I had no wind.
The one time I did get on the treadmill, I had to stop only five minutes into my jog,
for a little coughing jag.

Despite feeling pretty depressed about it, I really have no excuse to gripe this way.
After all, this is merely some sort of cold virus,
one that I know will eventually pass.

In the midst of my whining, I stop to wonder -- how did Thoreau do it ?
Most of his life he was plagued by tuberculosis,
a malady that killed his sister Helen in her thirties,
many of his friends in Concord,  
and would eventually kill him at the age of forty-four.
At times, it incapacitated him for days, and even weeks.
There was no cure.
Everyone who got it, knew what it meant, and what trials loomed ahead. 

There must have been times when he would be short of breath
after the most gentle of exertions.
How frustrating, how terrifying.

Henry’s father played the flute, and taught young Henry to play.
Was it an attempt to help his son strengthen his lungs, and build up his wind

A windy day at Walden

And yet - his friends recall that they could not keep up with him walking,
that he was a bold and graceful ice-skater on the frozen river,
that he did not hesitate to climb mountains (including Monadnock and Katahdin.)
Some say his outdoor habits may have actually prolonged his life.

I could imagine his feeling weary on a cold winter’s morning,
nevertheless, pausing only to wrap a woolen scarf snugly around his throat 
before stepping through the door
to chop kitchen-wood in the door-yard, or count tree-rings out in the woodlots,
or just enjoy the tonic of fresh cold air.


Finally one particularly cold day, I made a break for it.
Despite it being 8 degrees outside, I went out for the briefest of walks
in the bleak, but welcome, sunshine. 
hobbled around the slick and icy roads of our neighborhood,
Bundled up beyond recognition.

As I turned a corner, a little wind came up –
and instead of flinching,
I pulled my own woolen scarf down from my face, and inhaled deeply.


  1. Sorry you've had such a time. Like you Thoreau did, I like to think my getting outdoors (virtually) every day helps my health. Nice quotes.

  2. Boy, did I relate to this post! Holiday duties, a house full of company, out-of-state funeral, then a nasty cold -- all kept me out of the woods for weeks on end. Then came the nasty weather. But oh, how good it felt, even to get out on icy trails and into soggy woods at last. I'm always amazed at how you find Thoreau quotes that just nail the situation.

  3. many times it is a particular quote that I had read long ago, and it suddenly becomes clear - in fact, this one is what got me off the couch and outdoors !