Thoreau Thursdays (27): The View from the Front Door

October 20, 2011

“There were times when I could not afford to sacrifice the bloom of the present moment to any work, whether of the head or hands.  I love a broad margin to my life.  Sometimes, in a summer morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in a revery, amidst the pines and hickories and sumachs, in undisturbed solitude and stillness, while birds sang around or flitted noiseless through the house, until by the sun falling in at my west window, or the noise of some traveller’s wagon on the distant highway, I was reminded of the lapse of time.  I grew in those seasons like corn in the night, and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been.  They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much over and above my usual allowance.”
Henry David Thoreau, Walden

The view from my front door

I envy the woodsy view from Thoreau’s front doorway.  I am not enamored of the view from my own front door, looking out on our scraggly lawn and garden to a residential urban street of closely standing houses.  Even our view of the sky is made imperfect by telephone and cable wires.  Our bushes and trees on the borders of our lot are unkempt and wild, but they provide some measure of privacy even in the city.  So thankfully our windows, at least, are free of curtains.

When my sister visited recently, she turned a chair around from facing into the dining room to instead face out the window.  This was her spot to sit while sipping her morning cup of coffee.  This simple action made me realize how easy it would be to be more aware of the outdoors.  How many days have I spent inside, going about my life, without noticing the sunrises and sunsets or clouds passing by!

Thoreau’s quote reminds me to invite revery and contemplation into my days.  I am ashamed at how rarely I spend time in our yard.  I like the idea of using our yard as an outdoor living space, an extension of our house.  I will have to spend the winter dreaming up ways to make this a reality by next summer.

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”
— John Lubbock, The Use of Life

“Living artfully, therefore, might require something as simple as pausing.”
Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul

“The lure of the distant and the difficult is deceptive.  The great opportunity is where you are.  Do not despise your own place and hour.  Every place is under the stars, every place is the centre of the world.  Stand in your dooryard and you have eight thousand miles of solid ground beneath you, and all the sidereal splendors overhead.”
— John Burroughs, Leaf and Tendril: The Complete Writings of John Burroughs


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One Response to “Thoreau Thursdays (27): The View from the Front Door”


  1. When the weather is kind, do you have somewhere to sit in your garden, with your cup of coffee? Somewhere secluded, where you can look at green and growing. Where the ‘world is too much with us’ is over there, behind the trees.


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