The Sounds of Walden

by Henry David Thoreau

The Sounds of WaldenI did not read books the first summer; I hoed beans. Nay, I often did better than this. There were times when I could not afford to sac­rifice the bloom of the present moment to any work, whether of the head or hands. I love a broad margin to my life. Sometimes, in a sum­mer morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in a reverie, amidst the pines and hickories and sumachs, in undisturbed solitude and stillness, while the birds sang around or flitted noiseless through the house, until by the sun falling in at my west window, or the noise of some traveler’s wagon on the distant highway, I was reminded of the lapse of time. I grew in those seasons like corn in the night, and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been. They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much over and above my usual allow­ance. I realized what the Orientals mean by contemplation and the forsaking of works. For the most part, I minded not how the hours went. The day advanced as if to light some work of mine; it was morn­ing, and lo, now it is evening, and nothing memorable is accomp­lished. Instead of singing like the birds, I silently smiled at my inces­sant good fortune. As the sparrow had its trill, sitting on the hickory before my door, so had I my chuckle or suppressed warble which he might hear out of my nest.

My days were not days of the week, bear­ing the stamp of any heathen deity, nor were they minced into hours and fretted by the ticking of a clock; for I lived like the Puri Indians, of whom it is said that “for yesterday, today, and tomorrow they have only one word, and they express the variety of meaning by pointing backward for yesterday, forward for tomorrow, and over­head for the passing day.” This was sheer idleness to my fellow townsmen, no doubt; but if the birds and flowers had tried me by their standard, I should not have been found wanting. A man must find his occasions in himself, it is true.

From Walden Pond by Henry David Thoreau.