A Fitting Celebration Of Henry David Thoreau’s Bicentennial

Today marks the birthday noted here, and I have just read another excellent essay marking the occasion. It happens to coincide with receiving a couple of excellent photographs from Richard Kostecke, a recent guest of Chan Chich Lodge who will soon be a contributor to this site. I’m confident the birthday celebrant would appreciate both the photos and the person. I am mixing things up a bit by sharing these photos with the essay, but I hope the point will be well taken:

Six years before he moved to Walden Pond in 1845 to ponder life and live deliberately, Henry David Thoreau spent two weeks canoeing rivers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The voyage was an epiphany for him.

photo credits: Richard Kostecke

At the time, the nation was becoming giddy with the promise of industrialization, an enterprise greatly dependent on rivers for power and waste disposal. But Thoreau, born 200 years ago on Wednesday, foresaw the ravaged futures of these increasingly commodified rivers. His book “A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers,” self-published in 1849, offered his account of what was actually a two-week trip with his brother John.

Already in 1839 the water-powered wheels and belts of the Industrial Revolution were whirling fast. Though Thoreau was not yet well traveled in outdoors New England, his insights were distilled by watching the rivers’ migratory fishes. Dependent on clean and free-flowing water to swim upriver from the sea to spawn, these fish even then were being stymied by dams. He was so distressed by what he saw that he was stirred to ask a still haunting question: “Who hears the fishes when they cry?”…

Read the whole essay here.

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