Passage: The life of Henry David Thoreau

It happened this past week ... the 200th anniversary of the birth of the great naturalist and writer Henry David Thoreau on July 12th, 1817.


Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862).

CBS News

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately," Thoreau wrote in "Walden," his account of his two years living in a small cabin beside Walden Pond near Concord, Massachusetts.

He wished, Thoreau went on, "to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

Thoreau's book -- as much inward reflection as natural observation -- has inspired generations of readers, and made Walden Pond a place of pilgrimage that has remarkably survived more or less as Thoreau saw it, save for its popularity as a swimming site.

Thoreau visited and wrote about other places in New England as well, including the Maine Woods and its mighty Mount Katahdin.

And he posed questions worth pondering to this very day:

"It's not enough to be busy," he wrote. "So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?"


Walden Pond in Massachusetts.

CBS News

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