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        That Beautiful Bug

    Rereading Walden in its entirety after thirty-something years, I was particularly struck by the last metaphor on the last page of the final chapter, “Conclusion,” the old tale Thoreau uses to sum up everything he was trying to say in the book:

   Everyone has heard the story which has gone the rounds of New England, of a strong and beautiful bug which came out of the dry leaf of apple-tree wood, which had stood in a farmer’s kitchen for sixty years., first in Connecticut, and afterward in Massachusetts,-from an egg deposited in the living tree many years earlier still, as appeared by counting the annual layers beyond it; which was heard knowing out for several weeks, hatched perchanche by the heat of an urn. Who does not feel his faith in a resurrection and immortality strengthened by hearing of this?

    We cannot know – we aren’t made to know – what surprising twists and turns might be in store for us before we exit this earth.  This time around it seems to me what Thoreau was doing in Walden is blasting all presuppositions to Kingdom Come. Out of an old Connecticut table comes a stunning, living truth that sets my soul on fire, like it was in the long-lost days of my youth.

Fall on the Connecticut River.

On the Road to Unionville.

   As it turns out, I finished reading Walden at my friend John Boldt’s place in Marlborough, New Hampshire, face to face with Mount Monadnock.  John is what you would call an independent historian. We’ve been friends since our high school years, even though we attended different schools. I went to Norwalk High where at one point I got to channel Fidel Castro for ten minutes in front of the assembled student body and staff. John went to the Loomis School at Windsor Locks, where he and schoolmate Andy Jackson once rode a sheet of ice several miles down the Farmington River. Together we have visited Walden, Emerson’s house, and Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.

   Like a waiter in a good Italian restaurant right there with the parmesan grater, John was right there with the Annotated Walden. Together we read how, according to Connecticut folklore, the original owner of the old table that the beautiful bug gnawed his way out of belonged to none other than Isaac Putnam. Say now…

                                                                                                      Max H. Peters


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