Henry David Thoreau believed that living simply without the distraction of debt and materialistic things can lead you on the path to pure freedom. And so, on July 4th, 1845, he set out on a two-plus year mission and build a home and cabin in the middle of woods on the shores of Walden pond.
During his time at Walden, he kept a journal reporting on everything he saw and learned from nature. His experience at Walden Pond provided the material for his book, “Walden.”
The book reflects on simple living in natural surroundings. “Walden” touches on topics such as Thoreau’s personal declaration of independence and social experiment, his voyage of spiritual connection and discovery through nature, and on some level is considered a manual for self-reliance.
Have you read “Walden” or lived in nature away from society before? I have. When I sixteen-years-old, my parents had hired escorts to wake me from my sleep and fly me 3,000 miles from New York to Utah to attend a wilderness program, with the intention that when I finished the program, they would pick me up and bring me straight back to boarding school in CT.
Book I of “The Pace of Nature” Series tells the story of my life at boarding school told through my character, Lilly Difeo. But Book II, “Wilderness,” focuses on Lilly’s struggles as she attempts to emancipate herself after her parents break their promise to let her remain at home after attending a year at boarding school, and so, Lilly finds herself in a wilderness program in Utah, with no fixed end date, the only girl in a group of troubled and delinquent teenage boys.
As most of you know, the “The Pace of Nature” series is based on true events from my life. I lived in the wilderness for 56 days and it was the most extraordinary experience I’ve ever had. I slept on the ground, ate food with a stick, hiked miles for water, climbed trees to watch the sunrise and set; I walked on trails not known to any map. I made fire from branches. It was freeing and liberating and I experienced the spiritual power of my natural surroundings. I learned to live on little, survive in unknown circumstances, and stand on my own two feet. Virtues, I continue to carry with me to this day.
I had spent most of my twenties and early thirties traveling this country and Europe, and no experience has ever compared to what I’d felt during my two-month stay in the wilderness.
Naturally, I was instantly connected to Thoreau and his experiment at Walden Pond when reading “Walden” in undergrad. Sometimes, when life’s responsibilities become too overwhelming, I think of my time in the wilderness and wish I could go back to that simple way of living. It was indeed the purest type of freedom I’ve ever endured.