Thoreau Redux


Thoreau Redux
Copyright, such as it may be, by Ronald Gardner
July 30, 2016
(Estimated reading time: about 2 minutes)
(Estimated composing time: perhaps 15 minutes, including editing)

Imagine yourself, paddling your kayak, or your canoe, upon the lake, Ada Hayden Lake perhaps, gliding along slowly near the shoreline. A wonderful day, the bright sun shaded by a few welcome clouds, winds calm, water smooth, birds in their flight, fish jumping as they feed; a perfectly balmy, quiet moment for your thoughtful repose. All is right. Along the higher walking-path surrounding the Lake, one hears only a not so distant voice of an unseen person, asking, almost as if in some incredulous comprehension:

“What are you doing down there?”

And a good question, yet how does one reply, when it and its answer easily relate as much to the joys of paddling as it would be rather innocently founded upon one of the most unknown Questions and best replying Answers of early American literature, that of the stalwart Henry David Thoreau to the astonished inquiry of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Thoreau, as many know, was protesting some form of tax which he refused to pay, and for that he was placed into a small locked shack, which among honest people of the time represented the semblance of a jail house. Rarely is it known that upon hearing of his friend Thoreau forced into such a circumstance, Emerson arrived to visit. Standing outside the makeshift jail, near the small window and seeing Thoreau inside, Emerson asked: “Henry, what are you doing in there?” To which Thoreau replied: “Waldo, what are you doing, out there?” The implication being, Why are you not protesting also. Again, a good question.

And there you are, still on the Lake in your favorite boat, floating about with the gentle waves and whisping winds, hearing from that nearby voice with the same inquiry, of:

“What are you doing down there?”

To which you reply, in a modest suggestion of invitation:

“What are you doing, up there?!”


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