Thoreau on enjoying winter (Walden 163)

Thoreau’s been out gathering wood for the fireplace.

“How much more interesting an event is that man’s supper who has just been forth in the snow to hunt, nay, you might say, steal, the fuel to cook it with! His bread and meat are sweet.”

One of the tricks to enjoying winter is to get outside, even if it’s bitterly cold. Get out for a while and move around, because indoors will feel better when you get back. But you have to walk briskly or do something active — if you just shuffle along you’ll be miserable. Do it right and you’ll feel warm for the rest of the day.

For Henry, chopping wood for his wood pile was “pleasing work.” I don’t have to chop wood, but I do have to scoop the driveway when it snows. I never use a snowblower. Too loud, for one thing, and I never have to worry about starting a snow shovel. Maybe it would be different if I lived in the Dakotas or New England, but I’ve never minded scooping out a driveway, even after a heavy snow. Like woodchopping, I suppose, it’s work that has a rhythm to it, it doesn’t require much of your attention, and you can see your progress. If you’re in reasonably good shape, you feel your muscles and get good-n-tired but not exhausted. You’re warm, you eat well and sleep well. It’s winter, but — to borrow some Minnesotan understatement, since they are known for their hard winters — it could be worse.

“I had an old axe which nobody claimed, with which by spells in winter days, on the sunny side of the house, I played about the stumps which I had got out of my bean-field. As my driver prophesied when I was plowing, they warmed me twice — once while I was splitting them, and again when they were on the fire, so that no fuel could give out more heat.”

(About  “A Year in Walden”)


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