My Book

Same Quote, Six Months, Two Meanings

I’ve spent a little bit of this afternoon re-reading some of my old posts, searching for bits I might read at the event I’m speaking at next Tuesdays (you’re invited — RSVP and come on out!).

I was reading through Part 11, the last one, and was looking at the section where I describe the final climb up the final mountain, Mt. Katahdin. I’m about a mile from the end of my 2,200 mile journey and here’s a paragraph that caught my eye:

I reached the top of the scramble and walked across a rocky plateau toward a spring ahead of me. It was named, “Thoreau Spring,” after the naturalist who climbed Mt. Katahdin in 1846 and whose quote — “So we saunter toward the Holy Land, till one day the sun shall shine more brightly than ever he has done, shall perchance shine into our minds and hearts, and light up our whole lives with a great awakening light, as warm and serene and golden as on a bankside in autumn.” — I read less than 24 hours before getting on a bus to Georgia.

First off, pretty poetic that a quote I read on my way to the trailhead was one I was seeing at the end again.

More important, though, is my interpretation of the quote is different, in my second reading, than it was in my first.

When I read it in April 2017, the quote was all about “the Holy Land.” We’re sauntering toward there. If we keep moving, one day we’ll get there.

thoreauspring

But when I reread it in September, one mile from the end of one of the world’s longest trails, I realized all of the beauty in the passage has nothing to do with the destination. Sure, we head toward the Holy Land, but the rest of the passage is the magic part.

“…till one day the sun shall shine more brightly than ever he has done…”

It was nice to get to the end. But the “getting” is way more important than the “end.” And, when I read Thoreau’s words now, it seems obvious to me he’s saying that the beauty is in the everyday, in the basic, in the repeated, and in the small.

There’s only one Holy Land, but sunrises happen every day and if you pay attention to them, they’ll “light up our whole lives with a great awakening light.”

That was a good reminder for me.

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