Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Things do not change; we change.

"However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in the poor house." - Henry David Thoreau

In English class my Sophomore year we were given a list of books to choose from to read and subsequently write a paper about. There were trends and most people seemed to choose the same books, so I chose the only one on the list that no one else wanted, a book I'd never heard of before by a man I'd never heard of before. I hated Walden instantaneously. So many calculations, so many rationalizations, I went back to my classroom and asked to switch to something else. My teacher, god bless her, asked me to keep going, to give it more of a shot, and so I did - I began again. I loved Walden instantaneously.

The more time I spent with the book, the more time I spent thinking through how something from so long before me could be so in sync with my life, a high school girl. Soon, the patience I found while reading that one book trickled over into all the books I read, and opened up new books and new ideas. I carried my copy (the one shown above), a $2 Dover Thrift edition, everywhere. The pages are rimmed in pink and buckled and curled from the Powerade that fueled my high school lunches. I marked my favorite passages with large, highlighter stars, and scribbled notes in the margin.

As a college student, and again as a graduate student, I tiptoed in and out of theoretical debates on the texts, questions of validity and significance, but I refused to give up on it, a choice every Lit major must make for themselves at one point regarding one or more texts from their youth. I refused to let go of the fact that a book written by a man who was just a little older than I am now in 1854 meant so much to me at 16, and that even with all that complications brought up byreexamining a book from a perspective that is afforded the luxury of time and access, the lines still ring true to me.

"I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one." -HDT


  1. Love it Brandi!
    Your photo inspires me to photograph my ancient copy of the The Essays of E.B. White, the worn pages such a tactile record of my love.

  2. Brandi, there's a "shout out" to you on my blog post for Thursday: http://brendalynnmiller.blogspot.com/2012/01/practice-thursdaythe-yoga-of-reading.html