Monday, January 30, 2017

Thinking in the woods ~ my column from Sunday's paperC

I’ve been at a creative low tide since November. The oral surgery in December didn’t help.

Usually, when I get in a slump I simply wait it out. But that tactic wasn’t working this time. So many times in the past when I found myself flailing, I did a mental reset and got back to the basics. That’s what I decided to do this past week.

I needed a book that I first read when Jilda and I moved to the country over 30 years ago. I knew it was there hidden among the books that most writers have in their library. As my finger slid from spine to spine, I found it. “On Walden Pond” by Henry David Thoreau is a book that provided inspiration when I needed it.

The work is a reflection on the two years Thoreau spent building a small cabin and living near the banks of Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts in the 1800s.

Thoreau was a philosopher, and I won’t pretend that I grasp the full meaning of this work, but I remember that it resonated with me the first time I read it. He seemed to be stepping back and taking a very close look at life. In doing so, Thoreau figured out what was important to him on a basic level.

I read until my eyes were tired. Stepping to the office window, I noticed the rain had stopped and the sun peeped out from among the clouds. Grabbing my walking stick, I headed toward the barn.

Ol’ Hook jumped a deer. He was off and running as fast as a rumor. The January sun felt good on my back. When I circled the barn and headed toward the new path we built last summer, I heard something I hadn’t heard in a while.

Caillou Creek Watching ~ I've used this pic before sorry
It was the small stream deep in the hollow on the east side of the barn. It winds through the roots of ancient oaks and hickory trees that keep it shaded in summer. Last year’s drought made the creek bed dry as old snuff, but as I walked, the gurgling sounded like music in the silence of the hollow. It felt like an old friend had come home after a long season away.

Finding a flat rock about the size of our coffee table, I sat for a while thinking. My mind settled down as I fell into a state of bliss. The place felt sacred.

As I sat there on that rock listening to the soft song of the water, I wondered what was going on in Thoreau’s life when he decided to move away from civilization and refocus his life force on the simple things.

I think the time by the stream helped me sort through why I’d been in a slump. There are things in our lives we can control, and things outside of that control. Sometimes I struggle trying to change things and the resulting frustration sows seeds of doubt about who I am and why I’m here.

Leave it to an old book and a small stream that found its voice after a long silence to help me find some answers.


  1. Thanks Rick for your post today, resonated.

  2. "Be still and listen to nature". It always has the answer.
    I am glad you are hearing the "voice".

  3. Anonymous1:45 AM

    One of your best posts, Rick!!

  4. Reminds me of a song...we are walking on holy ground.

  5. I truly enjoy walking with you. Great visit. In my many years some of my best times were either by a stream or camp fire. And your descriptive language produces words that tickle my ears. 'Fast as a rumor!' and 'Dry as old snuff'! i think you are out of the funk! (smile) I hate it and love it when I say to 'myownself' dang it, I wish I had said that! You done good!(as always)

  6. Your stream sitting and reflecting reminds me of times at the shore listening to the waves crash at sunset. There may also be wine and a cigar involved, but the reflection is similar.

  7. I've also enjoyed the writings of Thoreau, and I've taken comfort in John Muir's words, "In wildness is the preservation of mankind," or words to that effect.

  8. It seems that you have had an epiphany. Jilda's yoga teaches you to stop and clear your mind. You did just that.

  9. Yes just listening to nature is always a good way to spend some time


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