Have you noticed how we are moving through the seasons? We now enter autumn, the time of harvests, trees turning to colors, and finding warmth. “I now began to inhabit my house, I may say, when I began to use it for warmth as well as shelter.”
We know Thoreau loved huckleberries—we now hear of gathering grapes, apples, chestnuts, and a tuberous groundnut. Nineteenth-century New England harbored a vast array of apple varieties. In other years he does harvest cranberries and barberries.
The chapter is a homage to the work of warmth—finding sunshine, building a chimney, finding firewood, and the nature of hospitality. Consider how the chapter title is also a pun.
What constitutes a warm and hospitable home? If you’re Channing and willing to sleep on the floor, you may stay two weeks. It can also get dicey, “…only one or two of my guests were ever bold enough to stay and eat a hasty-pudding with me; but when they saw that crisis approaching they beat a hasty retreat rather….”
If you’ve ever seen ice bubbles in a frozen pond or lake, you’ll appreciate this passage. Thoreau’s lifelong fascination with ice formations is well documented in the Journal.
Warmth of course means finding firewood. He was especially fond of rowing and dragging tree stumps home. You’ll receive a primer here in appreciating the full experience of firewood.
Warmth includes considering his resident animals. He closes with a mildly regretful passage about having a wood stove the second winter, not nearly as poetic as the companionship of a fireplace.
- Remember, a sleeper is a railroad tie.
- You may know Vulcan as the Roman god of fire; lesser known is Terminus, the god of boundaries.
- Vert refers to the forest or lawns, as in verdant.
- Paralver may be a typesetting error or a made-up word and joke combining parlor and palaver.
- Fat pine is wood saturated with pitch or resin, valuable for a fire-starter.
- Cold Friday was January 19, 1810, when temperatures dropped 50 degrees in one day to below freezing.
- The final poem is The Wood Fire by Ellen Sturgis Hooper.
Cramer, Jeffery. Walden, A Fully Annotated Edition. New Haven: Yale University Press. 2004.