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Posts Tagged ‘thoreau’

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When we lived in Minneapolis in the late 1990s, we would tell friends back in Massachusetts that we thought the Twin Cities theater scene was the best anywhere. They would say, “You mean the Guthrie?”

No, actually. We meant the many small, more-experimental theater groups that popped up everywhere.

Friday we were introduced to new one, TigerLion, which performed an outdoor “walking” play about Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson at the Old Manse. Above you see one of several stages and the warm-up team performing before the show. (Note also that the audience’s path to the next stage set is lined with apples.)

The highly physical acting style kept everyone from toddlers to adults entertained as did the whacky sound effects, wild locomotive and cabin-in-the-woods creations, and energetic choruses.

When the Royal Shakespeare Theater decided in the late 1970s that the best way to convey the uniqueness of Dickens was to recite chunks of his narration (as in their production of Nicholas Nickleby), I think they changed theater forever. The inventive TigerLion expands on the use of a chorus, at one point having it speak the conversation of the pantomiming protagonists — even the crunching of the apples they eat. (Really funny.)

The troupe wants audiences to delight in nature and save the planet from unchecked exploitation. From the website: “We celebrate human wisdom and the spirit of nature through creative works that awaken, inform, and delight. …

TigerLion Arts presents Nature, the mythic telling of Emerson and Thoreau’s mutual love affair with the natural world.  …

“A professional ensemble of actors takes the audience on a journey through the natural environment as scenes unfold around them. Bagpipes, ancient flutes, drums and rich choral arrangements are intricately woven into the experience. …

“This original work is collaboratively created with writer/actor Tyson Forbes, a direct descendant of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“In today’s world, we are so estranged from our natural environment, and at TigerLion Arts, we feel that humankind must reconnect with nature in order to survive.  As oil spills into our oceans, as we race through our lives, as we look further and further outside ourselves for the answers, it is our hope that Nature can be a catalyst for our collective healing.”

More.

Photo: TigerLion
Energetic Minneapolis theater group recreating the interactions of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

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On an impossibly beautiful summer morning, Kristina and I decided to take a walk around Walden Pond, made famous by 19th century environmentalist and thinker Henry David Thoreau.

When we got to the parking lot, we were surprised to see how many cars were already there at 7:30 — people coming to walk, swim, snorkel, sit on the beach, and just enjoy nature.

Kristina was an ideal guide as she had just been to the pond the week before with other Thoreau fans celebrating his 200th birthday. She also has done a lot of art and writing and diving there over the years and was friends with the man who found the site of Thoreau’s small cabin, Roland Robbins.

On our walk, we noticed temporary signs from an alphabet book about Thoreau written at the Thoreau Farm Writers Retreat. The book is just one of many examples of the ways people make the venerated promoter of civil disobedience their own. Kristina mentioned there is even a Swedish Thoreauvian from Göteborg studying the soil around the cabin site, including the outhouse soil!

Thoreau’s friend Bronson Alcott started the tradition of leaving memorial stones at the site. Today the pile is testimony to the many thousands of visitors who wanted to pay their respects.

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If you can get to the N.C. Wyeth exhibit at the Concord Museum by September 18, I think it will be worth your while.

You’re familiar with the family of painters, the Wyeths, right? Best known are Nathaniel C., his son Andrew, and Andrew’s son, Jamie. Perhaps you have been to the Brandywine Museum in Chadd’s Ford, Pennsylvania, which got its start with generations of Wyeth art.

N.C. fell in love with Henry D. Thoreau‘s writing in 1909, made several pilgrimages to Concord, and eventually conceived of a book that he would illustrate , calling it Men of Concord: And Some Others as Portrayed in the Journal of Henry David Thoreau.

The Concord Museum and the Concord Library are each hosting exhibits related to the book, but if you like N.C.’s art, the museum exhibit is the one to see. It’s small but informative and lovely to look at.

N.C. was known for heroic illustrations of classics like Treasure Island, and his characters’ facial expressions and body postures always tell a story. That might be too literal for some art lovers, but I like it. I like the looks on the faces of three men Thoreau described in his journal as “slimy.” I like the watchful, coiled bodies of the muskrat hunters on the river, and the youthful innocence of N.C.’s Thoreau — a quality I have never associated with the writer.

One fanciful painting with bluebirds in a bubble of light like angels over Thoreau’s head seems like hagiography. It’s not my favorite work here, but it’s an intriguing summary of the writer’s interests. And people do make a religion out of Thoreau and Transcendentalism, so maybe it’s not surprising. The whole Concord gang — including Bronson Alcott and Ralph Waldo Emerson — is in the show, minus most of the brilliant women, of course.

One thing I learned was that N.C. had his pencil sketches converted into glass slides, and then he projected them onto the Renaissance board he favored so he could work directly on the enlarged sketch.

More on the museum website.

The hut is a replica of the cabin Thoreau stayed in at Walden Pond and is located on the grounds of the museum.

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A few photos.

The Barrow Bookstore featured a Thoreau quote on its kale-decorated book barrow at Thanksgiving: “My Thanksgiving is perpetual … for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.” This shop off Main Street is the place to go for gently used and out-of-print books.

A yellow rose was blooming on Beacon Hill as late as November 19.

Fort Point Arts has a new show by six contemporary mosaic artists using a variety of techniques and materials. One favorite example: Aesop’s wisdom about the fox, the grapes, and the crow, rendered as a mirror.

Finally, no matter how many times I have walked up and down School Street in Boston, I have failed until now to zero in on the reason it is called School Street. A Latin school was established there in 1635, before the founding of Harvard even, and many notables attended over the years. You should be able to read these names on the plaque in the sidewalk: Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Charles Bullfinch, and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Boston Latin is still going strong, but in a new location.

I love that the original Boston Lain was teaching Latin and Greek, languages I once knew a bit. I am also reminded that those languages were taught at outdoor hedge schools in 18th Century Ireland, when the English were blocking education by Catholics.

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We had just enough snow yesterday to top off the cross-country trail my husband likes, but he’s pretty sure today was his last day skiing this season.

Before winter is entirely gone, check out a charming children’s book called Once Upon a Northern Night.

In the words of Maria Popova at BrainPickings.org, “Writer Jean E. Pendziwol and illustrator Isabelle Arsenault weave a beautiful lullaby in Once Upon a Northern Night (public library | IndieBound) — a loving homage to winter’s soft-coated whimsy, composed with touches of Thoreau’s deep reverence for nature and Whitman’s gift for exalting ‘the nature around and within us.’ …

” ‘Once upon a northern night
a great gray owl gazed down
with his great yellow eyes
on the milky-white bowl of your yard.
Without a sound
not even the quietest whisper,
his great silent wings lifted and
down,
down,
down,
he drifted,
leaving a feathery sketch
of his passing
in the snow.’ “

More about the book here.

Popova recommends that you complement Once Upon a Northern Night with Tove Jansson’s Finnish “classic Moominland Midwinter, then revisit the best children’s books of the year.”

My local indie bookstore is getting a lot of extra business because of Popova’s reviews of children’s books. In fact, I told the shop manager yesterday he should follow Brain Pickings, but there was a long line at the register, and I don’t think he wrote it down.

Art: Isabelle Arsenault/Groundwood Books
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In Sweden, mangata is the word for the roadlike reflection the moon casts on the water. In Finland there’s a word for the distance reindeer can travel comfortably before taking a break: poronkusema. A terrific German word that people familiar with Concord, Massachusetts, will appreciate is Waldeinsamkeit. What do you think it means? Yep. “A feeling of solitude, being alone in the woods and a connectedness to nature.”

National Public Radio staff say:  “Just as good writing demands brevity, so, too, does spoken language. Sentences and phrases get whittled down over time. One result: single words that are packed with meaning, words that are so succinct and detailed in what they connote in one language that they may have no corresponding word in another language.

“Such words aroused the curiosity of the folks at a website called Maptia, which aims to encourage people to tell stories about places.

” ‘We wanted to know how they used their language to tell their stories,’ Maptia co-founder and CEO Dorothy Sanders tells All Things Considered host Robert Siegel.

“So they asked people across the globe to give them examples of words that didn’t translate easily to English.”

I loved this report. You will, too.  Read more at NPR, here.

Art: National Public Radio, “All Things Considered”

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I was reading an article by Kathleen Wolf, a social scientist whose “work is based on principles of environmental psychology and focuses on the human dimensions of urban forests and ecosystems.”

The following words struck me: “Interviewees say that merely looking at trees tends to reduce mental and physical stress. A walkable green environment is also thought to increase life satisfaction in later life and even longevity.” Hmm.

So to borrow some words from local honcho H.D. Thoreau, “I went to the woods to see if I could live” longer.

Photos include the Hapgood Wright Town Forest, Joe Pye Weed, an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, a log like a scaly snake, and various fungi indicating mysteries beneath the surface.

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