William Wheeler Anderson IMYIM, I am why I am
Fundamentals of The American Spirituality Party

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Henry David Thoreau Country

The beginning is, the roots of American Spirituality were born in Concord Massachusetts, with the Transcendental moment, a questioning of all religious doctrine. Spirituality, that which is evident, grew in the mind of Emerson, and Thoreau. It was a recognition of the beginning of an American spirituality, which as meant by Emerson & Thoreau, was turning your back to religion and devoting yourself to Nature, i.e., heaven on earth.

Here's Emerson, "I remember an answer which when quite young I was prompted to make to a valued adviser, who was wont to importune me with the dear old doctrines of the church. ... No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature. Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution, the only wrong what is against it." (Self Reliance)

Here's Thoreau's mantra, "I wish to live ever as to derive my satisfactions and inspirations from the commonest events, everyday phenomena, so what my senses hourly perceive, my daily walk, the conversation of my neighbors, may inspire me, and I may dream of no heaven but that which lies about me." [March 10, 1856]

Two hundred years later, and fifty years after The Thoreau Society began in 1941, Walter Harding wrote an Introduction to a video of Esther Howe Anderson's Thoreau Country. The slide lecture was profound in 1940's because a new Kodachrome film, that made projected transparencies, brought nature into the home and minds of people enduring a cold bleak winter in New England. This can be seen as online photographs, here.

Esther was among the few who began The Society in 1941, and she and Walter and Edwin Teale, enjoyed a longterm friendship around the annual meeting. When she could no longer give the lecture of 160 slides with Thoreau quotes, and commentary, I gave the narration. Once at The Concord Library, Walter was in the audience, and said to me, Good job, you only made one mistake."

When I produced Thoreau Country for a videotape, Walter agreed to write an introduction, and be recorded. In this pilgrimage through the woods of Walden, and by its shore, stepping gingerly past the crowded beach of swimmers, Walter laid a rock on the cairn, at the site of Thoreau's house. Nothing could be more poignant.... This videotape is that record, an introduction to Esther Howe Anderson's Thoreau Country.

A written record is here.

"Thoreau Country" is a video of slide lecture by Esther Howe Anderson, was made in the 1980s by William Wheeler Anderson. Many of the original Kodachrome images were shot in 1940's of the countryside in Concord Massachusetts. The online Thoreau Country begins here.

Note: The media rendition of a slide lecture is a different message than projected slides, and without Esther, adding her notes or observations, or the beautiful images, we are forced to resort to our own intuitions. In the contemporary mode, the required music and a more speedy recitation gave a single impression over many images.

As a lecturer, Esther presented her interpretation of Thoreau hundreds of times, in and around Concord. Thematically, as a photographer, the slide lecture is a unique vision to seeing as Thoreau saw, through what he wrote, and what he wrote as soundtrack. It is a unique and valuable interpretation, as Walter Harding says, "a Thoreau country now gone forever...."

Thoreau said, "Pictures react on the life of the seer. Seeing is my everyday business."

"dissolving the snow early in Spring..."

She passed-away without a recording being made of her marvelous New England accent, recitation of 160 quotes from Thoreau's writings.

She was inspired by Thoreau as the World War II came before the nation. I'm certain that she had met N. C. Wyeth walking in the woods by Walden, or at the Concord Library Exhibit of his paintings. She was creatively inspired by his book, Men of Concord, and the revolutionary manner in which Wyeth created avisualization of literary material, books.

Additional material about Esther:

"Seeing the Concord Landscape," here, a slide lecture about Esther Howe Anderson, at The Concord Free Public Library, November 3, 2000. Written and delivered by William Anderson Jr.

Her Journal of Travels by Horse are online here.

A slide show entitled Testaments of her slides was created by William Anderson, Jr. here

The slides are in the care of the Concord Free Public Library, here.