Look inside Henry's Night


Henry paddles across a lake of fog.
September 9, 1851

“The distant meadows towards the north beyond Conants Grove full of fog appear like a vast lake out of which rise Anursnack & Ponkawtasset like rounded islands. Nawshawtuct is a low & wooded isle—scarcely seen above the waves...O what a sail I could take if I had the right kind of bark over to Anursack for there she lies 4 miles from land as sailors say. And all the farms & houses of Concord are at the bottom of that sea, so I forget them and my thought sails triumphantly over them. As I looked down where the village of Concord lay buried in fog—I thought of nothing but the surface of a lake—a summer–sea over which to sail...”

From Walden, The Village

“It is a surprising and memorable, as well as valuable experience, to be lost in the woods anytime. Often in a snowstorm, even by day, one will come out upon a well–known road and yet find it impossible to tell which way leads to the village. Though he knows that he has travelled it a thousand times, he cannot recognize a feature in it, but it is as strange to him as if it were a road in Siberia. By night, of course, the perplexity is infinitely greater. In our most trivial walks we are constantly, though unconsciously, steering like pilots by certain well–known beacons and headlands, and if we go beyond our usual course we will carry in our minds the bearing of some neighboring cape; and not till we are completely lost, or turned around—for a man needs only to be turned around once with his eyes shut in this world to be lost—do we appreciate the vastness and strangeness of nature. Every man has to learn the points of compass again as often as he wakes, whether from sleep or any abstraction. Not till we are lost, in other words, not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.”