Years ago, when I was teaching the play THE NIGHT THOREAU SPENT IN JAIL to my high school English students, you weren’t all that excited about the Transcendentalist philosophy, but you had two favorite parts of the play. Henry David Thoreau was in jail for refusing to pay his taxes, and he shared a jail cell with a young man named Bailey. Bailey couldn’t read or write, so Thoreau taught him to write his name in the dust of the cell floor. You loved that scene.
Your second favorite was when Thoreau talked about rights: every human being had the inalienable right to snore, he said…provided it did not interfere with the inalienable right of another human’s ability to snore. You laughed at that, saying you were going to quote that to Dad.
My favorite Thoreau story comes from the time when Thoreau’s friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson, was very busy traveling and lecturing, so Thoreau went to help with the chores on his farm. One sunny day Thoreau took Emerson’s son Edward on a berry picking adventure in hopes of gathering enough huckleberries for a pie. With the exuberance of a child, the young boy ran to show Thoreau how many berries he’d picked. Edward fell, the berries spilled everywhere, and the boy felt clumsy and embarrassed. Thoreau, in true form, assured the boy that nothing was wasted. What Edward had done was brilliant; he had scattered berries that might someday seed more and more huckleberries.
Nothing is wasted, not when a pail of berries is spilled, or when we make honest mistakes like forgetting names or details, and it’s not even a waste of time when we spend much of our day napping in a recliner. Everything has a time and a place, Mom, and nothing is really wasted, not if we view it with a grateful attitude.
So this will be our word for 2012, Mom: HUCKLEBERRIES.
It will be our reminder to look for the value in each experience.
Happy New Year, Mom.