Hanging out with Thoreau #SOLC19

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photo credit: Walden.org website

Would I like to visit the historic 1906 Tudor-style headquarters of the Walden Woods Project at the Thoreau Institute? Sure!

Would I like to sit in front of a roaring fire in the massive walk-in fireplace that hasn’t been lit in over 20+ years? Um, OK!

Would I like to contribute to a project that will assist Thoreau scholars and environmentalists for years to come? Absolutely!

When the call went out a few weeks back for volunteers to help out with Walden Woods Project’s Animal Index Blitz, I couldn’t resist. While I have read Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, I have not explored his extensive journals where he recorded everything — and I mean everything! — that he saw, heard, thought, experienced. I am a bit of a nature geek, fascinated with the world around me, so this sounded like a fun way to spend a couple of hours on Thursday afternoon/evening. And the fact that it took place just hours after our first significant snowfall of the season made it even better.

photo credit: Christie Wyman

When I arrived at the Institute after school, the amazing fireplace in the former Higginson estate’s lobby greeted me. Don’t be fooled by the small size of the actual fire. The heat radiating out from this enormous hearth was intense! And our workspace for the Blitz? Massive leather club chairs gathered around in front of the fire. I actually worried that I might fall asleep because it was so relaxing. Fortunately I did not!

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The task given to volunteers was to scroll online through assigned 20-page sections of the journal and make note on a spreadsheet of any animals (including insects and birds) referred to in Thoreau’s text. This crowdsourced database will serve as a veritable goldmine of information for Thoreau scholars and environmentalists alike. After final collation, researchers will be able to search for any references to a particular creature rather than scanning thousands of pages for what they are looking for.

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Here’s a peek at a section of my spreadsheet entries.

For the next few hours I read, typed, laughed, puzzled, and learned alongside a handful of other engaged volunteers, all of which just happened to be educators, and helpful (and grateful) Institute staff. And the best news? The work isn’t finished, so we have the opportunity to return and do it all over again. Um, OK!


Thanks for wondering and wandering a bit with me today. Many thanks to the crew at Two Writing Teachers, and the extended SOL community, for giving us the time, space, and encouragement to live the writerly life here each Tuesday and every day during the month of March. Happy Slicing!




17 thoughts on “Hanging out with Thoreau #SOLC19

  1. What an amazing experience! This is just the kind of detail work I enjoy. (In grad school, I was once assigned to create an index for one of my professors, and it was SO MUCH FUN. LOL). How incredible to have a behind-the-scenes look at the work of the Walden Project. I don’t even know what a couple of your entries are, so I am off to do a little googling and learn something new!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great opportunity to volunteer to affect others’ research! I heard of the project from a radio piece or podcast. Your behind the scenes view helped me to understand how it’s really being done!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Christie – I want to be Henry David Thoreau when I grow up. What a cool experience! And your pics with the writing are a perfect pairing. I look forward to hearing about the next time you’re there!

    Liked by 1 person

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