Today’s quote–All good things are wild and free–comes from “Walking,” an extensive essay written for The Atlantic by Henry David Thoreau, the American essayist, philosopher, and naturalist best known for Walden and “Civil Disobedience.” The essay, published after his death, was a combination of two lectures, “Walking” (1851) and “The Wild” (1852), which Thoreau combined, separated, and combined again for publication (1862).
The opening of the essay provides a clear snapshot of the content:
I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil— to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society.
When I shot the photo above (last year, late spring), my “real” camera was out of commission, but I was determined to still take advantage of photo opportunities. As a friend and I were leaving a bookstore late one morning, a mini-daisy field caught my eye. How odd it seemed in the middle of all the commerce! Neither the magazine purchased nor the hot beverage consumed could evoke the good feelings that a moment with the daisies yielded.
The one sentence from Thoreau’s essay captured my feelings–“all good things are wild and free.”
The full quote sums up preceding paragraphs in which he valorizes the “untamed” or natural over the “civilized” and cultivated.
In short, all good things are wild and free. There is something in a strain of music, whether produced by an instrument or by the human voice—take the sound of a bugle in a summer night, for instance-which by its wildness, to speak without satire, reminds me of the cries emitted by wild beasts in their native forests. It is so much of their wildness as I can understand.
Take a moment to read the entire essay. If you want to know more about Thoreau, see the Walden Woods Project. There’s a series of links near the end of the Thoreau background information page that you will find useful.
“The Spirit of Sauntering,” a Brain Pickings article published a few years ago, offers an analysis of Thoreau’s “Walking.” You might want to check that out too–or instead, if Thoreau’s writing style does not appeal to you.
Today’s challenge nominees (see previous post for rules):
It’s almost the weekend! Be sure to tune in tomorrow for my final quote of the challenge.
Can you imagine walking through a fish market and encountering a woman who is so content, so fierce that her smile captivates you, even as she’s slinging a knife and her hands are covered in blood and guts?
When my photographer friend, Gale D, traveled to Mumbai some years ago, that is exactly who she encountered. The woman, “who was cutting baby sharks, had an incredible smile and a beauty that did not match her surroundings” or the task she had undertaken.
When she saw the description for the “Fierce Woman: Photo Inspiration” swap in the A Thousand Words group on swap-bot, Gale knew she would use this image. The swap, just like the others I’d hosted in the past, required that individuals pair an inspirational quote by a woman with a complementary photograph. Gale felt Jennifer Lee’s quote captured the experience and the photo:
Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.
This quote has been attributed (by some) to Lee, noted for directing Disney’s Frozen, but I haven’t been able to find any information on when and where she said this.
What I appreciate about the pairing of the photo with the quote is that it speaks against the usual narrative that our pursuits must be grand or lead to magnificent outcomes, that they must involve an encounter with and a conquering of our fears. The woman in the photo shows us that even the mundane moments of everyday life require fearlessness, passion, and fire.
I captured the image (above) a week or so ago when my hubby, son, and I were exploring downtown. The chair is colorful and worthy of photographing, but I was drawn to the quote.
I dream my painting and then paint my dream. –Van Gogh
It is perfectly aligned with where my head is at the moment–planning and working toward a few goals.
A few days before encountering the chair, one of my besties and I decided to work toward completing our top three goals and report our progress to each other every week. By the beginning of week one, I was ready to slay in a serious way. By the end, I was whining inwardly that I’d made zero progress on any of my goals.
Thanks to Thanksgiving Break, I’ve had a moment or two of clarity and I’ve concluded that “goal slay” is as much about slaying the dragons that stand in our way as it is about actually achieving our goals: Dragons of time. Dragons of demands. Dragons of habit. Dragons of neglect. Dragons of doubt and fear.
The reality–life is busy and full, so we often have little time to squeeze in a new thing, goal, activity, even person. We’ve developed some patterns and routines that must change. Even our perceived good habits have to change if we are to accomplish our goals. What’s more daunting? We must sharpen our swords on our own imagined dragons before we can slay the really scary ones.
So although I’ve not checked any of the boxes directly leading to any of my goals, I’ve made significant progress on the process. I have well-defined goals and a solid plan to slay some dragons. That’s something…isn’t it?
I lived all week for this moment, for this period of contemplation and rest.
We run ourselves ragged by going and going and going like the Energizer Bunny, but all aspects of our health require that we pause, that we tune out all the noise and allow ourselves to repair from the daily wear and tear of the week past.
For the next several hours, I am pausing to…rest, reflect, and reset. Maybe, you’d like to join me.
Today would have been my last Love Notes 20 post, but I decided to prolong the fun. My partner faced some challenges and needed a little extra time to get her last card to me, so instead of posting about the cards I received for the final prompt, I’m sharing with you the letter I sent in response to the final prompt.
“Be the change.”
When I considered the prompt, so many thoughts raced through my mind that I hardly knew how to tackle it. I ruminated for many days; then, during my prayer and meditation moments one morning, I read a thought that stuck with me and coincided with the theme.
Here’s a summary:
In order to see God’s vision for your life and become part of God’s story, there are four promises you must claim:
- You have a gift only you can give.
- Someone has a need only you can meet, only you can heal—no matter how inadequate you feel.
- Joy is the journey where the gift and the need collide. God’s path for your life is a collision course. The intersection where your gift crashes into the world’s need is where you will truly begin to live.
- Your journey to give your gift will break you…but it will also make you. –[from Better Than You Can Imagine: God’s Calling, Your Adventure by Patrick Quinn, emphasis mine]
After reading this, I knew I had to share this with my penfriends, so I sent them a letter instead of a postcard or notecard.
The excerpt from Better Than You Can Imagine unveils a principle I embrace. If we are to be the change, then we have to find the gift someone needs—the world needs—that only we can give. We don’t just wake up one morning and decide what we’re going to give. We decide to accept and share the gift, but discovering this gift is a journey—not a decision.
Imagine how much collective change we can create if all individuals would take the journey to find that one thing and exercise it. We would literally change the world! As we partner with God on finding this “great need,” our lives are transformed from the inside out and we experience the “symbiotic” nature of change: the world opens up and reveals to us what it needs and we open up and provide.
Far too often we get caught up in the idea of making a name for ourselves or doing something grand when what seems smallest can make a huge impact on someone’s life and on the world.
A long time ago, I read “A Grammarian’s Funeral,” a poem by Robert Browning, which celebrates the grammarian’s lifelong dedication to Greek language study and his discovery of the articles. While he lived, his colleagues criticized his “wasting his life” and his brilliant mind on such trifles. For them his work was menial, but, though they seem a small contribution, the articles—a, an, and the—are so essential to our languages.
Like the grammarian, we must be keenly focused on finding our part and then doing it. In doing our “small” part, we change the whole.
I encourage you, if you have not already done so, take the journey to find your unique gift and be the change. In affecting even one person’s life, you’re doing your part to change the entire world. The possibilities are amazing!