Now Comes Good Sailing
I’m not sure how I’ll go peacefully into the night, but I hope it’s a long time from now. When my time comes I hope my last words are as interesting as those of Henry David Thoreau, who, in addition to saying “Now comes good sailing“, added “Moose” and “Indian“. I’m no expert on Thoreau, but as I understand it he had visited Maine and seen both, and said it would be a lovely place to be buried.
Thoreau is one of the many interesting people to have come out of Concord, Massachusetts. Born in 1817, and dying in 1862, he lived a bold life in his 44 years. Of the greats on Author’s Ridge at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery – Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott, Nathanial Hawthorn and Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thoreau died first. Hawthorn followed him to the ridge two year later, Emerson twenty years later and finally Alcott in 1888. There were other legends in Concord at this time, but these four shared a connection in life and the same ground in death.
Environmentalist, abolitionist, surveyor, handyman, pencil maker, writer, traveler – it seems he would an interesting guy to have an speak with. I’d love to have been canoeing with Thoreau and Hawthorne to hear some of their conversations. I’d love to have been at the table at The Old Manse when Thoreau and Emerson got together. When Emerson traveled Thoreau lived at Emerson’s house. He lived on Emerson’s land at Walden Pond, where he famously wrote Walden. He wrote about other places he’d visited – Mount Katahdin in Maine, Cape Cod, his journey up the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. He also visited Niagara Falls, Quebec, Montreal, and other points in North America. He never traveled overseas, and he never married.
Walden was his great work. The book that influenced me and so many others. I’m overdue to read it again. Like many books on my list it waits patiently for another day. Thoreau might have pointed out that I’ve got to decide what to eliminate to give myself that time. He didn’t have a television or a smart phone to distract him, but life in 1854 was not without distraction. The nation was dividing and heading towards civil war. People lived harder lives. Henry’s brother died from a shaving cut. And Henry died young too, but he squeezed immortality out of his 44 years.
Now comes good sailing. What an interesting thing to say on your death bed. Thoreau was clearly interested in death and what awaited him on the other side. I’m 6 years older than Henry was when he died and I’m in no great hurry to join him. Will it be good sailing? Time will tell.