Friday, March 25, 2011

`That I May Catch Life and Light'

A sunny day, almost warm, a day for shedding coats and stifling impulses to sing and dance. Pacific Northwest natives complained the sunlight hurt their eyes. The neighbor’s yard was yellow with daffodils and forsythia. The school’s sand-covered athletic field had dried enough for a boy to lie on his back, flap arms and legs, and make a “sand angel.” Five girls, arms linked, high-kicked in a chorus line. In his journal for March 25, 1859, Thoreau writes:

“I thought the other day, How we enjoy a warm and pleasant day at this season! We dance like gnats in the sun.”

We ought to be flattered. In the next paragraph, he describes “a score of my townsmen” shooting and trapping “musquash [muskrats] and mink,” inspiring Thoreau to write:

“Am I not a trapper too, early and late scanning the rising flood, ranging by distant wood-sides, setting my traps in solitude, and baiting them as well as I know how, that I may catch life and light, that my intellectual part may taste some venison and be invigorated, that my nakedness may be clad in some wild, furry warmth?”

Thoreau is fond of finding or devising analogs for the writerly enterprise. Writers are trappers, capturing creation’s elusive spawn and returning with the raw material of sustenance and finery. In my sack for today is yesterday’s limit of life and light.

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