The Sons of Anak
Concord, Massachusetts – Fall 1859
“It is only when we forget all our learning that we begin to know.”
— Journal, October 4, 1859
On September 5, 1859, Concord was seasonably cool after strong winds (those that pelted the fifty-six-year-old Emerson’s yard with unripe pears), prevailed two days previous. Green urgent sprouts of corn emerged from Concord’s fertile loam and pumpkins, “yellow and yellowing,” blazed the earth creating what Thoreau described as a “genuine New England scene.”
On this day, Thoreau sauntered through the Acton woods searching for a millstone suitable for crushing plumbago into the fine powder he sold to electrotyping firms. (An advertisement in local newspapers of the day states: “PLUMBAGO Prepared EXPRESSLY FOR ELECTROTYPING by JOHN THOREAU, PENCIL MAKER, CONCORD MASS.”) The business was a responsibility inherited (along with the lead mill) solely by Thoreau after the passing of John Sr. in February 1859. Within the first weeks of that year, Thoreau had initiated a period that would begin and end with the presence of death, that of his father and, in December, a distant acquaintance named John Brown.
Read the rest of my new essay on Henry David Thoreau at EMPTY MIRROR.