Thoughts which the Body Thought
Continuing to read Henry Thoreau: A Life by Laura Dassow Walls and came across this lovely passage:
Thoreau usually walked alone, but often [his friend & poet Ellery] Channing came along, though Thoreau could be impatient: “In our walks C. takes out his note-book some times & tries to write as I do — but all in vain. He soon puts it up again — or contents himself with scrawling some sketch of the landscape. Observing me still scribbling he will say that he confines himself to the ideal — purely ideal remarks — he leaves the facts to me.” Channing's criticism pushed Thoreau to articulate what he wanted with those heaps of “facts”: not mere data, but “material to the mythology which I am writing” — or, more largely, “facts which the mind perceived — thoughts which the body thought with these I deal.”
Walls delves deeper:
Thoreau's walks became a form of mediation, a spiritual as well as physical discipline. He worried about walking bodily into the woods without getting there in spirit, some piece of business in his mind literally blinding his eyes. “I am not where my body is — I am out of my senses. In my walks I would return to my senses like aa bird or beast. What business haave I in the woods if I am thinking of something out of the woods.” Animal minds became a model for him; he strove to walk like a fox, mind and senses wholly open. As he said of a muskrat: “While I am looking at him I am thinking what he is thinking of me. he is a different sort of man, that is all.”
Thoughts which the body thought as the material for which Thoreau crafted a personal mythology. Perhaps with practice it can be the material for ours too.