Thoreau and Cronan: Walking Back to the Wrong Nature 

Walk it like I talk it... walk it, walk it like I talk it

Thoreau highlights the qualities of the wilderness through walking. He makes walking into an art form that requires one to abandon all other things in order to appreciate it at its full capacity, though only some actually have the luxury to do this. “If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again – if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man – then you are ready for a walk” (2). In order to be ready for a simple walk, Thoreau manufactured some not-so-simple requirements. He strongly insists that walking should be a daily part of a man’s day and condemns them for wasting their time with work and things of the sort. He judges those who don’t appreciate and participate in the art form of walking, disregarding the need for some people to work and provide for their families. When he walks, he is free. The wilderness is a place of refuge for him. For him, walking must be a slow and steady thing. “Moreover, you must walk like a camel, which is said to be the only beast which ruminates when walking” (5). As he walks, he takes in the wilderness around him. He also makes walking an exclusive thing, that only belongs to a few pre-destined people. “It requires a direct dispensation from Heaven to become a walker. You must be born into the family of the Walkers” (2). 

Thoreau and Cronan differ in their notion of what wilderness means. As Thoreau says “..what would become of us, if we walked only in our garden..?” (5), he continues the idealization of wilderness as a more distant place. Cronan on the other hand wrote about how there must be a new understanding of wilderness, and a new inclusivity of our very home as the wilderness as well. Thoreau appreciates the wilderness but only on the surface. He appreciates the ease of the wilderness that he is accustomed to but not its depths. To him, in order to be in the wild, he must leave his home even though the nature around his home can in fact be the wilderness as well. This is where he and Cronan variate in their definitions of wilderness. Thoreau does in fact demonstrate “stern loneliness” in his experience of wilderness. He very much so isolates himself from others in order to be “free”. He also criticizes others who are not like him, making his walking a very independent experience.