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  • Writer's pictureSandy Obodzinski

Moments, With Thoreau in a Meadow

July 12, 1851 - 8 P.M.

"Now at last the moon is full, and I walk alone, which is best by night, if not by day always. . . . Farewell to those who will talk of nature unnaturally, whose presence is an interruption. . . . I start a sparrow from her three eggs in the grass, where she had settled for the night. . . .
The air is remarkably still and unobjectionable on the hilltop, and the whole world below is covered as with a gossamer blanket of moonlight. . . . You have lost some light, it is true, but you have got this simple and magnificent stillness, brooding like genius."

The sentences above were written by Henry David Thoreau in his journal on the evening of his 34th birthday. Though he makes no mention of the date's significance in the passage quoted in The Heart of Thoreau's Journals, a masterfully curated collection of writings from his more than two million words.

While Walden is his most famous work, the 39 journals left to his sister Sophia upon his death in 1862 hold the seeds of his published manuscripts. He documented moments of his life in exquisite detail. For it was moments with which he was completely obsessed: ". . . to stand on the meeting of two eternities, the past and future, which is precisely the present moment."

This afternoon as I walked a meadow trail in the thick July air, I thought of Thoreau and my visit to Walden's Pond a few years ago. The pond is simple, not that large, which perhaps should not have come as a surprise but it did. A lone swimmer began a late afternoon crawl across the water as the sky nearly sang a reverie to the day.

Back in the meadow...

I came upon an opening in the trees to my left - a connector section to the upper meadow path I had just completed. We looked at each other, that young buck and I as if to say, "Oh! Of course, you're here too. I'll just be on my way." Then he cut through the still air, silently, into the woods.

Every few steps, the pollinators carried on as if a great celebration was being thrown in their honor: more kinds of bees than I can name; dragonflies; yellow Swallowtail butterflies larger than my palm; even two Monarch butterflies...such a rare sight anymore. All feasting on the Milkweed, Passionflowers, emerging Sunflowers, Brown-eyed Susans, and other varieties of summer blooms I have not yet identified.

Pre-storm July humidity in Tennessee is my least favorite season of the South. But no other days are as ripe with life in every step. A brown toad no wider than a quarter rustled the long grass a few feet ahead, grabbing my attention, shifting my step.

Thin, blue - nearly translucent - dragonflies sprung from the grasses almost like confetti flying backward. Perhaps they were Azure Bluets or Double-striped Bluets or the ordinary-sounding Familiar Bluets. I really don't know. Until I went a-Googling, I didn't know that there are both Dragonflies and Damselflies in Tennessee!

(...suddenly, being a Damselfly in Nature feels like an aspiration.)

I notice I have been consumed by the magical mysteries of those blue wings, flitting flower to flower. Only to realize as I return to the moment from the faraway place in my mind that it must end, for today. A storm is coming. It rolls its hello in the distance.

"All this is perfectly distinct to an observant eye, and yet could easily pass unnoticed by most." *
~ Henry David Thoreau

*This sentence is the next to the last one written by Thoreau in his journal dated Nov. 3, 1861. It is in reference to a storm but is included in the book I cite because of its relevance to his journals as a whole.


Every link in this entry takes you to The Thoreau Society, a nonprofit established in 1941 which is the largest and oldest organization dedicated to Thoreau.

The Thoreau Society exists to stimulate interest in and foster education about Thoreau’s life, works, legacy and his place in his world and in ours, challenging all to live a deliberate, considered life.


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