In March 1848 a colleague of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Harrison Gray Otis Blake, sought out Henry David Thoreau to help him on his spiritual pilgrimage, recognizing Thoreau’s need to live a “fresh, simple life with God.”
Thoreau wanted to live his life free from the trappings of the commercial world, enabling him to enrich his inner life. He escaped to his Walden Pond to experience “nature as goodness crystalized.”
These two gentlemen corresponded for thirteen years. Letters to a Spiritual Seeker, published in 2004, contains 45 of Thoreau’s letters to Blake. Thoreau writes about the practicality of financially supporting himself, with references to the role of nature in his spiritual quest.
Today we are living in a different century, tied to our beloved Adirondacks. Historian Philip Terrie writes of Adirondack issues, and offers that Ed Kanze “gets as close as any local writer has in many a year to describing our corner of the continent in the spirit of Thoreau and Leopold.”
In the Adirondack Park we classify 1.16 million acres as Wilderness that sets aside an area in the Northeast to provide outstanding opportunities for solitude and an experience of wildness in nature. No mechanized vehicles, not even bicycles, are allowed on these public lands.
The Adirondack Explorer in the January/February 2019 issue features articles on classifying more Wilderness areas in the Park. A number of people were asked what wilderness meant to them. Kathy Dougherty said:
“Wilderness means communing with nature in the highest of aesthetic planes, akin to wrapping oneself in the glory of a Beethoven symphony, a Van Gogh painting or a Dickens masterpiece.”
Erik Schlimmer is quoted as saying:
“Wilderness is something that provides a feeling of timelessness. In real wilderness you can look around and not be sure if it’s 1154, 2018, or 2267 because it’s all nature with no trace of man.”
I use wilderness as a tool to help experience an inner peace. As Thoreau says, “nature is imbued with divinity.” Let’s honor that divinity.