Seniors Study American Transendentalists

 

     As part of their study of the American Transcendentalists, the senior class sauntered down to Concord, Massachusetts on Sunday, October 17 through Tuesday, October 19. Meeting up with their senior compatriots at the Waldorf High School of Mass Bay, the students explored the haunts and homes of two of the more famous of the nineteenth century writers, Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. 

     Stepping into the recreated cabin in the parking lot of Walden Woods on Monday morning, the students were instantly transported back to the year 1846 and a young Henry David, one year into what would become his two year, two month and two day sojourn at the pond, met them and engaged them in discussion and question answering. We followed Mr. Thoreau into the woods and to the actual sight where his cabin had been built 165 years ago. At that point the historian playing Henry broke character and answered a wider range of questions about Thoreau and his times. This was followed by the reading of a children's book at the actual cabin sight (Henry Builds a Cabin by DB Johnson) and a period of quiet contemplation and journal writing. Few things in life are as pleasant as a walk along the shores of Walden Pond on an autumn afternoon. 

     Afterwards, we headed over to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery to visit the eternal resting places of Thoreau, Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Amos Bronson Alcott and his famous daughter, Louisa May. Finally, we were given a tour of Mr. Emerson' home in Concord. We finished off the afternoon rooting on the girls and boys teams of Mass Bay in their soccer games.

     Tuesday morning saw us saying goodbye to our kind hosts and heading over to the Thoreau Institute, where we had a fascinating hour and a half session with Jeffrey Cramer, Thoreau scholar extraordinaire. Sitting at the magnificent Thomas Moser built table in the glorious library there, Jeffrey answered all of our questions about the life of the mind, following one's dreams and everything we ever wanted to know about the unique figure that was Henry David Thoreau. A highlight was getting to head into the 61.9º/41% humidity controlled archives vault and holding one of the original daguerreotype images taken of Thoreau back in 1856. One of the originals! (Each of us was so nervous that we were going to drop this priceless artifact!) We also were able to hold an original manuscript of one of Thoreau's lesser known works. Holding the original work of one of your heroes makes for a very special moment indeed!

     The trip was a delight in all ways, from the perfect weather, to the brilliant people we encountered, to the close connection we made with the teachers and students of the Mass Bay high school. Most important, the trip brought the lives of these very special Americans to life for us in ways reading their works alone could never have done. 

     Now, if we could just arrange for the junior class to head off on a similar trip when we read Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy!    Submitted by David Barham and Rosemary Burwell