Book Review: Walden

Walden: Or Life in the Woods

By Henry David Thoreau

Copyright 1854

BR 12576, 3 volumes

To read Walden is to step outside the mundane, to explore the wonders of Nature, to discover afresh the timeless delights and challenges of being human.

Penned nearly two hundred years ago, Thoreau’s account of living at Walden Pond is a vividly delicious feast for the spirit and senses alike. Everything is described in rich detail: the cost and materials for building his cabin, the varieties of trees and wildlife he encounters, his feelings and opinions concerning the functions of government, the need for the railroad, for education, and so much more.

But if Thoreaus descriptions stray into tedium at times or seem to be a bit self-involved, they will just as suddenly sweep you off your feet and carry you away with surprise and wonder. The antics of a loon, for example, flying overhead and diving into the pond’s depths, passing under and beyond his little boat ; his careful, awe-filled study of bubbles forming amid the ponds ice in winter; and the child’s eye he brings to a battle between black and red ants, all keep the pages turning. The author’s deep appreciation of Nature is apparent in every line, and his invitation to join him in experiencing Walden’s woodland sanctuary feels like a veritable call to prayer.

Throughout his discussions, Thoreau shares his vast knowledge with humility and sensitivity. He calls elements of the natural world by their actual names, cites classic and scientific sources, relates Eastern and Native American spiritual traditions, and interweaves objective fact with local hearsay.

Poetic, humorous, and deep, Walden transports readers back to simplicity, and urges us to wrestle big ideas. Most importantly,by relating his experiences at Walden pond, Thoreau shines a light into every person’s soul and proclaims:Wake up friend, and live!

If I Make it to 90

I love my Dad. He has always been there for me.

When I was little, he carried me on his shoulders. And when I got married, he walked me down the aisle.

He dished up ice cream sundaes and banana splits in good times, and cried hidden tears in bad.

But now that he’s past 90…

He needs to understand that when you live 2000 miles away, an unclear phone message means something. And even the lack of a message means something.

Once my Dad phoned the house and left the ominous message: Hi, Honey, it’s your Dad, call me.

Well , since my Dad never phoned me, this being the usual task assigned to my Mother, who wouldn’t assumed the worst? And So my husband dashed over to the shul where I was teaching fifth grade Sunday School students about Jewish sages. He wrangled the Principal out of her office, and followed her down the hall to my classroom to inform us all that Dad had called and that I’d better come home.

Shaking and tearful, I called him. Dad, is everything all right? Is Mom okay?

Of course, he said casually, What’s your zip code? Uncle George wants to send you something.


And it happened again just tonight. The phone rang, and before I recognized the number, all was quiet.

I called back as quickly as human fingers can push those stupid buttons, and left a message: Sorry I missed your call, Dad. Please call me back.

Time went by. Dad didn’t call.

Finally, as dinner was about to be served here in the NW, I tried again.

I got your call, is everything all right, Dad? I asked him when he ansered.

Oh, I dialed the wrong number, he said casually. Once again, my heart was racing for nothing.


What can I do? Short of scolding him like a toddler for scaring me half to death? Warning him that if he calls unnecessarily I am liable to panic…?

So I simply say once more: It’s great to hear your voice, Dad.

Who cares if my dinner is cold, if my heart is pounding frantically in my chest. My Dad is on the other end of the phone, still talking to me, still signing off with I love you, too.

But hey Kids, if I make it to 90…!

On One Foot

On one foot

…brief updates about me and those I care about

*Ari continues to improve, and we continue to rejoice with song and a bit of dance!

*Back to routine means back to sit-ups. And I’m relieved that 100 is still attainable.

*So now I’m re-imagining *Kindling Friendship*

Open to anyone wishing to share brief uplifting or socially responsible words of poetry (25 lines) or prose (250 words)

Include 3 lines of bio, one link

Up to 3 pieces may be submitted at a time.

Submit or inquire at:


The Power of a Peanut part 6


Day 13

Ari slept in his old favorite place last night–cuddled up on the loveseat at the end of our bed, the one we use for TV viewing. He managed to get partway up by himself, and only needed a little boost to settle in. It’s the only seat in the house where we are all allowed to sit together, where we can cozy up and cuddle at the end of a long day. Our days have been very long lately, so the chance to cuddel like old times feels downright miraculous. And finding Ari there when the alarm goes off, simply perfect.

7:30 ane Ari has already eaten and gone out. Yes, he resisted a bit at the door, and it took J’s muscles once more to haul him down the single step, but he went out and now we are readying for our own breakfast.


We’ve all had lunch, and Ari says “No way,” to going out again. No coaxing with orange bits or peanuts will lure him near the front door. J is hoping to venture forth on a few errands, but not until Ari is comfortably situated.

“I give up,” he says after several long attempts, “What can I do?”

“Mind if I try?” I ask.

“Go ahead,” he sighs. He brushes past where I sit crosslegged on the floor beside Ari’s nearly-empty food bowl. Despite all our successes, Ari still resists chowing down independently, still prefers being hand fed–“room service” is what I call it.

I stand up slowly, find my shoes by the back door, and grab the leash and container of orange bits left on the table.

“Who’s the sweetest boy? Ari,” I sing to the melody of Irving Berlin’s “Always”, the song J and I claimed as our own during our long-ago courtship. Then I say, “Come on, Ari, let’s go out.” I offer a treat, and he accepts it heartily.

I continue singing, Who’s the sweetest boy? Ari,” and slowly back down the carpet runner toward the front door.

“Who’s the sweetest boy?

Who’s our pride and joy?”

A few paces away, I offer again and Ari moves ahead to accept.

“Loves to find a toy?

Ari, Ari”

I repeat the process a couple more times, verify my own whereabouts a time or two, an dat last stand just inside the door with Ari beside me.

“Good boy, Ari,” the lease goes on and the door opens. I step outside, and wonder of wonders, Ari follows.

Suddenly J is at my right saying, “He’s off the step.”

I hand the leash over, and once inside, close the door behind me.

A few minutes later, we are all hugging and wagging in the living room, laughing, “Good job, good job, all around.”

7 pm

J is back from his errands, and we have had a bit of fun trying to get Ari to play. His friends just aren’t good company yet, so we wait for the call to go out.

Finally, we are all heading for the front door, handing out peanuts enroute. I attach the leash, and say cheerily, “Let’s go out, Ari. J goes outside, I hand off the leash, and Ari follows, happily wakking on his own, still a bit off-kilter, but somewhat steadied by J and the leash.

What a dance we do as the pair returns, rain-splattered yet triumphant!

*Kindling Joy*

Surely joy is the condition of life.

–Henry David Thoreau

I awake after dreaming about a celebration. Dishing up ice cream–butter pecan topped with chocolate syrup, in fact–enough for J and me, for his brother and my sister, both of whom we have not seen for over ten years, a true celebration.

And as I step out of bed, Ari stirs slightly on the rug.

We make our way into the kitchen,breakfast on eggs and coffee or kibble

As appropriate–and doesn’t everything seem so mundane and natural, as if we only imagined all the week’s difficulties, our flailings and successes?

And yes, I am ready to celebrate, ready to sing and cheer, to praise and dance with joy. I am so grateful for Life and Love, for loved ones and fresh starts, for the assurance of hope, the promise of consolation.

Outside the wind and rain proclaim another Oregon winter morning. Mysterious bumps and moans respond to the bluster, but inside we are warm and fed and together. Later this afternoon, I will kindle the Shabbot candles once again. I will renew my acknowledgement of the Divine Creator, of Creation spiritually based and intact.

Because Joy is the condition of Life. Joy and gratitude and Love Divine. Ruah (meaning Spirit or wind in Hebrew) rules the day outside our human abode these days, and remains Ever-vigilent within our hearts– within and around every aspect of Creation, including humanity, all the way down to this humble poet and Ari the WonderDog.

Wishing you sweetness and light, Darling Friends!

Shabbot Shalom,


PS- I invite you to share your own expressions of Joy or Gratitude, whether poetry or prose, for upcoming Friday posts. Just please keep verse to 30 lines or less, and other writing to 300 words. Send to jmyles63

The Power of a Peanut part 5

Day 11

Ari is not down for the count yet.

In fact, our morning has been unusually typical–out to the kitchen for Ari’s breakfast, and for ours. A bit of time chatting over coffee and headlines, a little reading, and out with Ari.

This time, we try the front door again. The back is too treacherous, and the garage too tricky in terms of flooring and distance.

So J places one of the carpet runners over the tile just inside the door, and calls Ari with a bit of orange.

Our boy is dressed in his dandy new harness, the lease goes on, the door opens, and they exit. J hoists Ari down the single step to the grass, and voila!

We spend the day as usual: laundry, tidying, reading–with Ari mostly near me in the office and occasionally moving about the house.

There are inquiries about going out , but Ari seems in no rush. So we wait.

Dinner comes and goes for J and me, then for Ari. Finally, the fetta chees comes out for a convincer.

At the front door, dog and man are at odds, but J hauls Ari out and the team is triumphant once more.

“Good Boy,” we gush together.

Ari simply wags his magnificent tail

The Power of a Peanut part 4

Day 10

As it turns out, Ari’s initial dive into the yard has proven to be his last thus far–which means that J has had to lug him up and down the three steps from our deck to the grass. Ari is just not steady enough yet. He’s still too off balance, leaning to the left.

So this morning there is something new, a harness for support. Thanks to South Salem pet supply, where we have always bought Ari’s food and conventional treats, J has procured a plush, cloth harness which fastens around Ari’s middle with velcro, and has handles like a grocery bag for easy assisting.

Our first attempt: I lead the way to the back door with bites of delicious orange. Ari moves pretty easily, with J holding the handles of the harness. All the way to the door. But Ari becomes a bit nervous as we approach. Additional coaxing from J, and Ari is outside. But the blasted steps are too much, and once more, J must hoist him down and eventually back up.

Attempt 2: Ari is happy to don the new harness, even to walk with us into the kitchen. But he is a smart puppy, a smart puppy, too smart for us to get anything past him. He won’t budge, and since it is obviously not an emergency to get outside, we wait.

Attempt 3: Ari dons his new harness and settles into the kitchen while we prepare our own dinner. He has had his, so what’s the rush y’all?

But of course we can’t go on like this forever.

We eat a pleasant dinner, happily chatting about this and that, and I share a few carrots with Ari. Mmmm, I must be his favorite at the moment since J has had all the unpleasant jobs lately.

The new plan is to try getting Ari out the garage and into the front yard. The back way is simply too treacherous for everyone, and Ari has already associated the front door, or so we imagine, with the less than fun visit of our mobile groomer, drat.

J starts his coaxing. A peanut or two and Ari is ready to cross the danger zone of the kitchen tile. No rug here. Will he make it?

One step chasing a bit of orange, then another, and another. Ari bumps into the kitchen can and skitters for a moment. Oh, no…

But the orange brings him back to task.

I hear J’s muffled frustration as the laundry room and garage steps loom near.

“He has really dug in,” J says through his teeth.

A grunt, a bit of scrambling, and a groan later, and their voices recede into the distance.

I plant myself in sweet, strong thoughts. Love Divine is everywhere, I think. But I’m straining to hear what is obviously beyond my ears at the moment.

Bring the leash,” J calls.

I hurry to obey, then return to my seat in the kitchen, and to my attempt to focus.

Then I remember the little poem I wrote so very long ago, in 1988, when I learned we were expecting another baby. We already had 3 young children, and finances were very tight. How would we manage with another child?

After quite a few panicked tears, I started singing a made-up melody with made-up words:

God will provide

And this I know

The more we trust

The more we strive

The more it has to show

Our Father-Mother


Forever near

God will provide

And His children need not fear

That baby was born 30 years ago last May, proof that things did work out. We all survived, all grew in marvelous and unimagined ways, and we even still like each other as our holiday celebrations attest.

By the time I sing these words three times through, J is coming in the door, Ari tumbling in beside him.

“We did it,” J breathes wearily. “Made it to the grass, and all good.”

Ari settles down on the new rug, and we gush over him, “Good boy, good boy!”

One more day,one more tiny step forward, one more embrace.

The Power of a Peanut part 3

Darling Friends,

As promised, I am posting a second time today–such is the excitement and awe around here.

With sweetness and gratitude,



Day 9

7 am and we are ready to get going. The plan is simply to get Ari to the back door, maybe feed him halfway, on the new rug in the kitchen.

The sun isn’t even up yet, and I’m dressed, filling a container with kibble. J and Ari are coming down the hall, all the way to the back door, and out they go. I grab my coat and follow.

The air is fresh and chilly. Even with the porch light on, it’s darkness everywhere for me. I hear Ari scrambling on the wooden deck, hear J’s quiet, reassuring, “Come on, come on” across the way.

Fear starts slyly seeping into my thoughts. I imagine Ari tumbling down the steps to the grass and rolling down the hill. Or, J lunging to catch him and falling into the shadowy abyss.

“We’ve already come farther than we planned,” I remind him.

“Come on, you can do it.”

We have come so far, I tell myself. So far this week, so far over the years. Yes, Love is everywhere.

And I remember our tent in South Dakota in 1993, the way it seemed to breathe in and out as the storm approached, the darkness and uncertainty, the four young children whose courage I wanted to inspire, and how we all moved fearlessly to safety despite the rain and thunder, the collapsing tent, the tornado winds. And I remember the brightness of that long ago sunrise.

“I need some apple for incentive, ” J says as he opens the door and moves into the house.

Silence closes in. I cling to Love Divine. Then I hear scrambling on the wooden deck, more scrambling, more silence.

“Ari’s moving,” I call through the door.

J dashes past me.

“He’s in the yard. Good boy, good boy, Ari!”

They both scramble up the steps and we all go inside, laughing and hugging, and loving the day.

The Power of a Peanut part 2

Darling Friends,

Things have been happening so quickly around here, that I must let you know I will be breaking my own rule today–I will need to post twice in one day to keep you all up to date. Your kind words and sweet thoughts/prayers have worked wonders, keeping our spirits high as the struggle continues. Please know there is much love for you and many wags of appreciation on this end.

Blessings to you!

Day 8

Ari wants to move, that is apparent. He will crawl for a treat, will stand and walk a few steps when encouraged with “Okay, let’s go, 1, 2, 3, up Ari.”

But the tiled hallway is too much for him. It’s downright terrifying. Maybe it’s too slick for his wobbling steps. Maybe he remembers how his feet went out from under him a couple of time before this nightmare began. Has it only been eight days since he was walking?

Our days have been spent moving and encouraging Ari to move independently. We coax him to move in circles around the bedroom, hustle him across the hall to my office for his usual day with me, hustle him back for snuggles and treats, and J even manages to get him down the hall to the living room. We parade in circles around the room a few times, bestow praise and treats galore, and settle down for a bit of quiet, seemingly normal, reading time.

Joy is a welcome guest. Or perhaps I should say, Joy is a cherished family member we yearn to keep with us. We are counting our glimpses of her as she draws near, and we can’t wait to help her unpack once she finally, truly returns

There is only the matter of the hall, the danger zone.

So J heads off to Home Depot for some runners. Maybe carpet will provide the grip Ari needs to move about independently.

With everything in place, we try again. A few apple bits, and Ari is up and at the door of the room.

“You can do it,” I urge, “look how easy it is now,” and I back down the hall.

Timidly, he crosses the threshold, into the hall, all the way, across the kitchen, into the living room.

Once there, we prance about, all of us. I offer treats as I move slowly backward, J behind me to guide. He even manages to catch a few minutes of our parade on video for the vet to see.

A few hours later, we make the return trip with no trouble, back down the hall. And what a startling, and sweet surprise when Ari later decides to simply walk himself across the hall to my office. What a champ!

An exhilarating, exhausting day draws to an end. We can only hold our breath hopefully as we all drift off to sleep, wondering what the morning will bring.