And these are “then and now” photos of Walden Pond and the surrounding forest where the hut was located.
“I went to the woods”, he wrote, ”because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived”. He had only himself for company at Walden, but this did not trouble him in the least. “I never found the companion that was as companionable as solitude”, was his assessment.
He wrote lyrically about many aspects of nature including the way time spent in natural places can clear the head, stir the spirit and refresh the body. He referred to this as the “tonic of wildness”.
Thoreau would have been impressed but not surprised that there in now scientific backing for his view. Researchers in The Netherlands, for example, have taken to highlighting the healthy impact of nature by referring to it as “Vitamin G” (G for green space). In two studies covering most of the population of the Netherlands, these researchers found that the closer people lived to green areas the less likely they were to have illnesses and the more likely to report being in good health. Similar research from the United Kingdom and Denmark suggests that the strength of this link is greatest if the green space is no further than 300 metres from a person’s place of residence. It is entirely possible, as well, that having convenient access to parks, gardens and other green spaces will help us live longer by lowering our risk of causes of premature death as heart disease, stroke and even cancer.
The message is clear. Connecting with nature should be as much part of a healthy lifestyle as eating sensibly, getting enough exercise, reducing stress, having close personal relationships and avoiding environmental hazards. Edward O. Wilson (the biophilia man) is so convinced of this that he says we require daily contact with nature if we are to enjoy healthy and productive lives.