When Udall squired Frost around the arboretum-like grounds that afternoon, they discussed how Thoreau animated the Yosemite campaign (through Muir) and Cape Cod (through Beston).Frost was on record praising “Walden” as one of his favorite books because it was miraculously “a tale of adventure,” a “declaration of independence” and a “gospel of wisdom” all rolled into one.When he turned 38, he purchased 50 acres of dunes near the town of Eastham on the outermost beach of Cape Cod.
Born in 1888 to an upper-middle-class Catholic clan in Quincy, Mass., Beston was encouraged at an early age by his parents to explore the Cape.
As an Atlantic Monthly correspondent, a farmer of herbs, a rustic wanderer and a writer of children’s books, Beston fell in love with the primitive grandeur of the New England seaside.
Equating sauntering with absolute freedom, Thoreau, whose “Walden” would be published three years later, ended his oration with eight words that in coming decades helped save the Maine woods, Cape Cod, Yosemite and other treasured American landscapes: “In wildness is the preservation of the world.” The sentiment became popularized when The Atlantic published Thoreau’s essay “Walking” in May 1862, with the line as the centerpiece, a month after his death. Lovers of his back-to-nature musings will flock to the shores of Walden Pond to celebrate his literary greatness. But our pilgrimages to honor Thoreau shouldn’t be confined to wood-fringed Concord.
Thoreau, toward the end of his life, famously called for townships to have “a park, or rather a primitive forest, of 500 or a thousand acres, where a stick should never be cut for fuel, a common possession forever, for instruction and recreation.” A full 14 years before Congress established Yellowstone National Park (America’s first) in 1872, Thoreau, courtesy of this visionary preservationist offering, helped inspire our magnificent National Parks system.
Often borrowing from his literary hero’s dictum, Muir harnessed Thoreau’s statement to promote his drive to save California wilderness from ruin.
“Civilization,” Muir wrote, “needs pure wildness.”Theodore Roosevelt, who saved over 234 million acres of wild America as president from 1901 to 1909, was so taken with “The Maine Woods” and “Walking” that as a Harvard undergraduate he climbed Mount Katahdin to follow in Thoreau’s footsteps.
Thoreau’s Concord, Kerouac insisted after visiting Walden, was best experienced in “blue aquamarine in October red sereness.”The last time our country rolled out the red carpet for Thoreau was in 1962, the year “Silent Spring” was published and the 100th anniversary of his death.
Kennedy’s secretary of the interior, Stewart Udall, sponsored a remembrance held at Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown. Douglas and Robert Frost spoke about Thoreau’s enduring greatness.
On April 23, 1851, Henry David Thoreau spoke at the Concord Lyceum about the interrelationship of God, man and nature.
It was the opening salvo of the modern American conservation movement.