Thursday, December 08, 2016


The Field

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), "Strawberry," Wild Fruits, ed. Bradley P. Dean (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2000), pp. 10-17 (at p. 15, with editor's note on p. 289):
In the vicinity of Bangor, as I am told, they are found at the roots of grass where it is up to your knees, and they are smelled before they are seen, in hot weather—also on mountains whence you see the Penobscot fifteen miles off and the white sails of a hundred schooners flapping. There, sometimes, where silver spoons and saucers are scarce but everything else is plentiful, they empty countless quarts into a milk pan, stir in cream and sugar, while the party sits around with each a big spoon.

as I am told: Thoreau was probably told this by his cousin, George Thatcher, who lived in Bangor, Maine.
I grew up "in the vicinity of Bangor," just across the Penobscot River from Bangor, in fact. Behind our house was an unimproved area we called "The Field," bordered by four streets—Washington Street, Eastern Avenue, Chamberlain Street, State Street—and partially bisected by Holyoke Street. Someone owned it, I suppose, but to us it was the village commons, and we had the usufruct of it.

We neighborhood boys, without adult supervision, mowed part of the knee-high grass for a baseball field in the summer, and in the winter, where the field sloped downwards towards Holyoke and Washington Streets, we went sledding after school until it was too dark to see. I once threw a snowball at a passing car, and when the driver got out and chased me, I ran as fast as my legs could carry me into the safety of the field.

Wild strawberries grew in abundance in the field, and I spent many hours in late spring and early summer on my hands and knees, picking them. Most of those I picked went immediately into my mouth, not into my pail, but enough were saved so that my mother (who let nothing go to waste) could make strawberry jam, in quantities sufficient to last us until the following year. Some of the berries we ate with milk and sugar for breakfast, but most became jam.

The field no longer exists in the form in which I knew it. New streets now run through it, and it is filled with houses.

Id., p. 17:
But let us not call it by the mean name of "strawberry" any longer because in Ireland or England they spread straw under their garden kinds. It is not that to the Laplander or the Chippewayan; better call it by the Indian name of heart-berry, for it is indeed a crimson heart which we eat at the beginning of summer to make us brave for all the rest of the year, as Nature is.
Aristotle, Rhetoric 2.13.12 (on old men; tr. John Henry Freese):
They live in memory rather than in hope; for the life that remains to them is short, but that which is past is long, and hope belongs to the future, memory to the past. This is the reason of their loquacity; for they are incessantly talking of the past, because they take pleasure in recollection.
Thanks to the generous reader who sent me a copy of Thoreau's Wild Fruits

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?