Do you keep a journal?

“Do you keep a journal?” is what Ralph Waldo Emerson asked Henry David Thoreau on October 22, 1837.  Thoreau’s answer was to begin keeping a journal that same day.

This blog is a journal of ideas about Thoreau and Hebrew.  I keep finding connections between these seemingly unrelated topics.  Maybe you will, too.  This is my first post.

The boat ramp at Walden Pond officially opened for the season today at 5:00 AM.  I was in my kayak and on the water around 11:00.  My first paddle of 2012!  A few other boats had already launched, mostly fishermen in ones and twos.  Luckily I had mostly sunny skies during the two hours I spent in the boat.

First, I davened my short (and belated) version of Shaharit (morning service in Hebrew).  There’s no sweeter place to pray than outdoors.  There’s no sweeter place outdoors than Walden Pond.  Normally I pray on land, and stand up for the parts of Shaharit where one does, but today I didn’t want to rock the boat.  I’ve been looking forward to this day all winter.

Then, as usual, I had to jot a few things in my journal.  All bundled up in my silk long johns, two layers of fleece jackets, and a life preserver, it was a little challenging to write in my lap until I made more room by balancing my paddle over the front of the boat.  I’d forgotten to bring along the paddle leash — as well as a lot of other stuff on this first day of the season — but there wasn’t too much wind and the paddle balanced perfectly.

Drifting around, I overheard those sounds that travel so intimately across the water: the small dry cough of a man in a canoe as he adjusted his fishing pole, Sunday-morning saunterers calling to each other from places along the Pond Path.  A woman in a black wetsuit splashed through the water, wearing a black diving mask and black snorkel; all you could see were her red lips.  She said the water was cold.

Focusing on my journal, I drifted past a small boat slowly propelled by a silent electric motor, not meaning to eavesdrop but hearing every word distinctly in the two fishermen’s conversation:

“Do you keep a journal?”


“You should keep a journal.”


“A lot of guys I know keep a journal.  A fishing journal.”

“Well, now you know a guy who doesn’t.”

“I’m just asking because, if you keep a journal, please be kind when you write about me.”

“Ha, ha.”

Reaching awkwardly behind my seat I pulled out the Thoreau book I’d brought along to read in my kayak: Selections from the Journals, edited by Walter Harding.  A “Dover Thrift Edition,” it’s a very slim 55-page paperback.  I turned to page 1 and read:


October 22.  “What are you doing now?” he asked.  “Do you keep a journal?”   So I make my first entry to-day…


This entry was posted in Ecclesiastes, It's About the Pond, Journal, Nature, Thoreau, Walden Pond and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Do you keep a journal?

  1. Thanks for liking my post, Frume Sarah.

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