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3601 S. Congress off E. Alpine Penn Field under the water tower check our site for monthly calendar it Sulu Nagai international Headquarters Come Visit us for LUNCH! In addition to our organic coffee, pizzas, empanadas, pastries and pies, we now prepare made to order sandwiches, salads, and even black bean gazpacho. of Walden Pond. Today the railway is invisible, the woods are, to borrow a phrase, “lovely, dark, and deep,” and the water is exceptionally pure. I have walked these woods in spring, summer and autumn, and found them ever entrancing. There’s no doubt that reading Walden at Walden makes for a perfect afternoon. It reminds me of reading Frost while walking his farm in Derry, New Hampshire, where almost all of the iconography of the early poems lies before you. There is no substitute for this, but a good set of photos helps when attempting to re-create that magic on a late summer day in Texas. Carrollton, Texas photographer Scot Miller spent the last five years wandering Thoreau’s woods as well, cameras in hand. A generous and dedicated soul, the proceeds of his work at Walden benefit the Walden Woods Project \(likewise, his photographs of Yosemite National photographs illustrate the newly published Walden: The 150th Anniversary Illustrated Edition of an American Classic a Texan. It certainly beats being president in 2004, to my mind. This edition of Walden pays tribute to a book that has never been out of print, has been translated into most of the languages on the planet, and has had a huge influence on modern thought about our relationship with nature. It also pays tribute to the beauty of the woods themselves. Miller’s illustrated Walden arrived shortly after my visit to Concord, as I was sorting my own photographs, in fact. I was struck immediately by Miller’s exquisite sense of light and colorwitness his “Brilliant fall morning” panorama that opens the book, with its quarter-mile stretch of fiery maples and birches, russet oaks and dark green pines reflected in the pond. But, one may fairly say, almost anyone with a decent camera can snap a fall morning in New England with excellent results. Yes, but with my own paltry snapshots on the table before me, I was forcibly reminded of how few have the eye or the patience to spend the days it takes waiting for the perfect combination of leaf hue, glassy surface, lightly clouded sky, and the other minutiae required to capture visible light and trap it on a page. Thoreau himself spent several pages attempting to document the shifting colors of the pond’s water. For the most part, he leaves the leaves to others. But what really brings the woods to life is Miller’s eye for the kind of details one tends to walk pastor walk over like small blood-red Bolete mushrooms on a bed of green moss and orange pine needles, or the even tinier chanterelle mushrooms peeking their brilliant orange from the multi-colored leaf fall. Nor does Miller simply dwell on autumn scenes. His camera catches the edge of winter as the pond begins to freeze over and the energy of spring as fern fronds like miniature bishop’s crosiers rise up amid the luscious green skunk cabbage. This spring, my daughter graduated from Wellesley, which gave me a perfectly good excuse to spend a week in Concord and its environs, hiking and reading and having the aforedescribed Transcendentalist Moment. We stayed at the lovely old Concord Inn, where coincidentally we were given a room said to have been Thoreau’s own at some point in his youth. Life was becoming something of a Thoreauvian swamp. That day at the Concord Museum across the square, I had stood at Thoreau’s desk, barely two feet square, simplicity itself compared with N.C. Wyeth’s 1933 convoluted painting, “Walden Pond Revisited,” hanging in the same room. Curiously, the museum also houses Emerson’s study, where the two men spent many an afternoon discussing their evolving philosophies. “Curiously” since the museum is just across the road from Emerson’s house, where one presumes Emerson’s study ought still to be. Just around the corner, one can stand on the spot where Thoreau spent a night in jail, protesting the use of his tax dollars to fund an unjust waranother small event that gave rise to some great writing. His essay on civil disobedience strongly influenced thinkers and activists like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela. Not bad for an essentially simple soul who “went into the woods” in order to “meet the facts of lifethe vital facts, which are the phenomena or actuality the gods meant to show usface to face….” In his introduction to the anniversary edition of Walden, Edward 0. Wilson points out that while living in the woods, despite his Transcendentalist tendency to glorify nature, Thoreau had “no mystic vision, no transformative flash of light.” Nor was he seeking such, even though as a poet he must have yearned for the kind of sudden insights that stir the soul. Rather, 159 years ago, Thoreau went into the woods to live quietly beside a nondescript pond to see what he could learn in Emerson’s “cathedral of nature.” One hundred and fifty years ago he published what he learned in a book, thus creating for generations to come that “transformative flash of light” he did not see himself: another case where the creation of literature became the road to truth. Bryce Milligan is a San Antonio author with a rather fine collection of walking sticks, from Walden Pond and elsewhere. 30 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9/10/04