Walking Towards Walden: A Pilgrimage in Search of Place

Walking Towards Walden: A Pilgrimage in Search of Place

by John Hanson Mitchell
     
 

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Starting from an ancient burial site, John Mitchell and friends began a 15-mile hike to the tomb of Henry David Thoreau. They sauntered through the landscape where our literature and history began--the woods favored by the Transcendentalists. On each mile, they explore not only the landscape before them but also certain timeless themes.

Overview

Starting from an ancient burial site, John Mitchell and friends began a 15-mile hike to the tomb of Henry David Thoreau. They sauntered through the landscape where our literature and history began--the woods favored by the Transcendentalists. On each mile, they explore not only the landscape before them but also certain timeless themes.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Observing that pilgrimage to spiritual centers is not Anglo-Saxon Protestant America's thing, Mitchell (Ceremonial Time) and his companions Kata Grant, a specialist in Native American basketry, and Barkley Mason, a birdwatcher and seeker, set off from their Massachusetts homes on Columbus Day 1994 on what they consider a sacred journey to Concord, ending in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, where Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne and the Alcotts are buried. Their 15-mile walk to this perceived ``centering place'' took them along the overgrown paths of the Minutemen of 1775; as Mitchell reminds us, the point of a pilgrimage is hardship, endurance, cleansing. The friends exchange tedious talk of Odysseus, the Holy Grail, Native American folklore, Columbus ``the oppressor,'' Ponce de Leon (whose Fountain of Youth the trio sought on an earlier expedition). Although there's a smugness about these folks in their certainty that Buddha and Krishna share their sensibility, Mitchell shows his acuity in his ruminations on ``place,'' which he ultimately discerns is to be found in the exoticism of the familiar. Illustrations. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Mitchell, naturalist and author of Living at the End of Time (LJ 6/1/90), decided to hike to the grave of Thoreau from Concord, Massachusetts, burial site of a member of the party of Sir Henry Sinclair, a 16th-century Scottish explorer, in an attempt to learn more about that famous landscape. Avoiding most roads and accompanied by two eccentric friends on the 15-mile walk, the author investigates a wide variety of related topics, including natural history of the area, mythology, and related literature. One of the most interesting aspects of this pilgrimage is the variety of personal histories related by local residents encountered on the trek. Recommended for local and larger natural history collections.-Tim Markus, Evergreen State Coll. Lib., Olympia, Wash.
Patricia Hassler
John Mitchell and two companions decided to honor Concord and its famous inhabitants by hiking there on Columbus Day from the burial site of a Scottish seafarer who died in Westford, Massachusetts, during a search for the Holy Grail. Their 15-mile odyssey mirrored the precolonial route of the minutemen as they advanced toward revolution at the Old North Bridge. Viewing Concord as America's "metaphor for itself," Mitchell and his Chaucerian companions turned their pilgrimage into an exploration of "querencia", the devotion people exhibit to a specific place. Like Thoreau, they sauntered and trespassed with nomadic determination, discussing the timeless attraction of spots as diverse as Oz and Provence, Que Lin and the Vienna Woods, debating geography's effect on creativity. Mitchell has produced a combination guidebook and memoir peppered with morsels of mythology, folklore, nature, literature, art, and history. This is a unique, fascinating approach to Concord--a marvelous miscellany, a paean to place.
From the Publisher
“Mitchell, naturalist and author of Living at the End of Time, decided to hike to the grave of Thoreau from Concord, Massachusetts, burial site of a member of the party of Sir Henry Sinclair, a 16th-century Scottish explorer, in an attempt to learn more about that famous landscape. Avoiding most roads and accompanied by two eccentric friends on the 15-mile walk, the author investigates a wide variety of related topics, including natural history of the area, mythology, and related literature. One of the most interesting aspects of this pilgrimage is the variety of personal histories related by local residents encountered on the trek. Recommended for local and larger natural-history collections.”—Library Journal

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780201406726
Publisher:
Counterpoint Press
Publication date:
09/28/1995
Pages:
301
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.57(h) x 1.14(d)

What People are saying about this

Edward Hoagland
“This is surely John Mitchell’s best book, and he is one of the most intriguing, original nature writers alive. It’s a jaunt through history and ecology, a spirited personal memoir, a saunter in Thoreau’s richly diverse sense of the word. Top-notch.”

Meet the Author

JOHN HANSON MITCHELL is the author of five books based on a single square mile known as Scratch Flat, as well as two travel books and the biography of the early African American landscape photographer Robert A. Gilbert. A winner of the John Burroughs Award for his nature essays, Mitchell was founder and editor of Sanctuary magazine, published by the Massachusetts Audubon Society. In 2000 he won the New England Book Award in nonfiction for his Scratch Flat series. He lives in Littleton, Massachusetts, the location of Scratch Flat.

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