“It is remarkable that men do not sail the sea with more expectation. Nothing remarkable was ever accomplished in a prosaic mood. The heroes and discoverers have found true more than was previously believed, only when they were expecting and dreaming of something more than their contemporaries dreamed of, or even themselves discovered, that is, when they were in a frame of mind fitted to behold the truth. Referred to the world’s standard, they are always insane.” – Henry David Thoreau, Cape Cod
This is a year of the commonplace and unromantic if you let it be. Lockdowns and border closings and mandatory quarantines tend to temper the passions of the high agency traveler. But then again, if you keep your expectations and dreams focused on regional adventuring until things open up again you might just find the world under your nose.
Yesterday I watched a bobcat, set against the snow, on the hunt. It was slinking along the edge of the forest where the fence announces wilderness begins. I expect it was attracted to the bird feeder activity, for there were squirrels and juicy birds for the taking for the ambitious hunter. Unlike my snowshoe hare encounter I wasn’t prepared for a picture, and I settled for locking her image in my brain.
Leaving Cape Cod the other day I stopped to fill up the tank and, glancing up, noticed 9-10 osprey hovering in the wind, all clustered together. I’ve never seen so many osprey flying together, and there they were right above me gliding gracefully about. By the time I finished fueling the car the osprey had drifted away to awe others elsewhere, but damn if they didn’t capture my imagination first.
For all his fame as a transcendentalist and beholder of truths, Thoreau didn’t travel very much in his lifetime. He spent most of his lifetime in Concord, Massachusetts, with notable trips to Cape Cod, up the Concord and Merrimack Rivers to the White Mountains, to the Maine woods, and one solitary trip across an international border when he visited Quebec. And yet he saw more than most people who travel far beyond the northeast corner of North America.
There’s light at the end of the pandemic, though we remain in a dark and treacherous tunnel. This isn’t the time to cross borders, but the world outside our Twitter feed remains vibrant and alive, awaiting discovery. The bobcat, osprey and Thoreau have each inspired me to shake off the creeping prosaic mood that shorter, darker days cloak you in and dive back into adventuring.
Et toi? Are you ready to re-join the hunt? Nothing remarkable was ever accomplished in a prosaic mood.