Week Four Discussion: Walking, Nature, and the Romantic Sublime.

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Week Four Discussion: Walking, Nature, and the Romantic Sublime.

SteveBrandon
Administrator
It may seem strange that an assignment for an online class would require you to disconnect and get outside; but, this is precisely what I want you to do.  It is one thing to read about the woods, Nature, and the role of the wilderness in getting in touch with the Romantic Sublime and one's true self, but both Thoreau and Emerson would rather you get out and find this connection for yourself.  Ironically, although both men were authors, neither wanted you to fully trust books; they wanted you to trust yourself.

After reading Thoreau's essay, "Walking," I want you to consider disconnecting from the internet, leaving the ipod behind, and visiting Nature.  One of the rallying cries of the modern environmental movement comes from the essay, "Walking," namely, "in Wildness is the preservation of the world."  In fact, "Walking," is considered one of the three seminal works on the role of Nature in our lives.  Emerson essay, Nature, is another one of the big three.  Thoreau and Emerson both thought that we disconnect ourselves from nature at a huge cost, and that in Nature we can find beauty, ideas, and rest which can allow us to fully discover ourselves.  For these Transcendentalist, American Romantics, Nature was a major source of the Sublime.  

I want you to consider following your instinct and finding a place to take a walk, to sit in nature, or to sit in the wilderness.  As Thoreau notes, the wild isn't hard to find; "Cities import it."  We call these spaces, "parks." There are national parks, city parks, and state parks scattered all around.  I want you to consider following your nose and finding a place to find the figurative "wilderness."  

How?  In the second part of "Walking," Thoreau says,

What is it that makes it so hard sometimes to determine whither we will walk? I believe that there is a subtile magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright. It is not indifferent to us which way we walk. There is a right way; but we are very liable from heedlessness and stupidity to take the wrong one. We would fain take that walk, never yet taken by us through this actual world, which is perfectly symbolical of the path which we love to travel in the interior and ideal world; and sometimes, no doubt, we find it difficult to choose our direction, because it does not yet exist distinctly in our idea....   When I go out of the house for a walk, uncertain as yet whither I will bend my steps, and submit myself to my instinct to decide for me...

If you decide to take me up on the suggestion of taking a walk in Nature, your assignment is to come back and discuss your walk and how your experience resonates (or doesn't) with that described in Thoreau's "Walking."  If you decide not to take me up on the suggestion of taking a walk in Nature, then I want you to discuss why you hesitated or why you didn't take the walk.    

Regardless, over the week, I want you to discuss your relationship with Nature, and the role it has played in discovering who you are and in, as Thoreau would say, living deliberately.  As you do, remember Romantics, like Thoreau and Poe, were all about getting in touch with your intuition, imagination, and feelings.  Each is a path to the Romantic Sublime and, through intense feeling, the ability to feel for others and your self.  To modern ears, this sounds a tad 'touchy feelly," but one possibility this week would be to talk about how you feel about Nature, how you felt on your walk, why you feel the way you do or did; or, if you didn't take the walk, if your feelings about Nature or walking had anything to do with your choice.  Another tactic for the discussion would be to compare your take on Nature with that offered by Emerson and Thoreau.

Note: Choosing to get out in Nature is a great opportunity to garner some extra credit.  This is a great opportunity to get together with your group or with two or more members of the class and plan an extra-credit day trip to take a a walk in nature and discuss Thoreau, Emerson, Poe, Nature, and Romanticism.

Note:  As always when participating in the discussion forum, quality, quantity, and frequency of posts are the key to getting the best class participation grade.  Another key to a high grade is to focus the discussion on and use the reading in your posts. Use the chapter and the essay we read this week in your essay, and don't just use the first couple of pages.   Remember, you don't have to be formal when discussing literature; in fact, the best conversations about the literature are informal and grounded in relating the literature to everyday experience.  The final and, perhaps, the most important key is to write posts which get other students to think and engage the literature, the ideas being discussed, and you.
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Re: Week Four Discussion: Walking, Nature, and the Romantic Sublime.

Sharice Morris
Taking a walk and being outside is a very relaxing thing. Nature is a beautiful things. There is so many different things to look at and explore whtn being outside. Leaving all of your technology in the house and getting away for a while outside lets you leave all your stress and problems inside with the technology. I was able to leave all my stress and anxiety and feel relaxed and peaceful. It allowed me to clear my mind and think more clearly. I live in Goochland so just going outside I'm surrounded by nature and all that is has to offer.
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Re: Week Four Discussion: Walking, Nature, and the Romantic Sublime.

Alex Smith
In reply to this post by SteveBrandon
I have just come back from my hike throughout the woods and I feel really revived from it.  When I got into the woods, I really did forget about everything else and started thinking about what I might hear, see, and touch in the woods.  It is a relaxing feeling to know that you have no worries when you’re out there searching around for… anything.  Personally, I always feel like I might find some really cool artifact that nobody else has found yet.  Maybe I might find an abandoned house (which I have found before) that could be a fun place to hang out at if you need to have some alone time.  Whenever I go out in the woods, I always have a thrill in me that I might see a rabbit, or a squirrel or maybe even a deer because they are truly amazing creatures, even though I hunt them I still feel like they are beautiful.  I’ve been in Boy Scouts my whole life and I’ve always liked hiking through the woods because you can just get away from civilization when you’re out there.

Thoreau believes that nature is a thing of beauty and everybody should take a walk through it at some point during the day just to get the feeling that it is one of the greatest creation’s there is.  I believe he is correct when he says that you need to be willing to drop everything and everybody when you go out for a walk because they get in the way of you enjoying the time you have during the walk.  Thoreau believes, as well as I, that there are more people today that are attracted to society more than they are attracted to nature.  I believe we all need to have a mind like Thoreau when it comes to spending time in nature because that is the real beauty of this world and it may not be here tomorrow.  
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Re: Week Four Discussion: Walking, Nature, and the Romantic Sublime.

Almira Dedic
In reply to this post by SteveBrandon
I have just come back from trip to Lake Anna. My husband loves to fish and my whole family loves spending time outside at all times.  We try to spend as much time outside as possible every weekend even though it can get very hot in the summer. Our favorite time is the winter where we can go into the mountains and enjoy the beautiful snow and peace get away from the daily hectic life. Thoreau’s developed many philosophical ideas concerning knowing yourself, living simply and deliberately, and seeking truth. He believed that it is best to want less and giving each part of life attention, whether in observing humans or nature, and living during all moments of life. He feels the same way as I do people are too occupied with work to truly appreciate what life has to offer.
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Re: Week Four Discussion: Walking, Nature, and the Romantic Sublime.

Erin Edwards
In reply to this post by SteveBrandon
I have the perfect place to experience the woods. My fiancé’s mom and stepfather own a vacation home in the beautiful mountains of the Canaan Valley in West Virginia. Nothing gets more pure than that. While walking in the woods with no technology and truly experiencing nature you can easily find yourself lost in the beauty of what was created for us. I truly enjoy being outside and listening to the sounds of nature. While I am there it truly does relieve the stresses of everyday life. I feel being outside gives me a chance to find myself and reflect on things that are bothering me or other things. Thoreau does want you to experience the simple things in life and I do feel this is the perfect option. I agree with Thoreau  when he stated that people do no appreciate what life has to offer because they are too involved in technology, work and other complications in life. They should get outside and take a walk to see how relaxed and carefree they are after the experience. I never truly thought about how walking outside made me feel until I read this story and took the time to actually experience it. I found myself overlooking the beauty of outside and what it has to offer us.
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Re: Week Four Discussion: Walking, Nature, and the Romantic Sublime.

Kelsey Glasco
In reply to this post by SteveBrandon
I have not experienced nature this week, but a few weeks ago I was at Lake Gaston with my family and you never really realize how beautiful nature is until you are forced to stop and look at it.  We were out on the boat almost the whole time we were there and it was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.  When the sun reflects off the water it makes a really pretty picture.  Being out in nature allows you to think about a lot of things and it really calms you down.  I think I did my best "thinking" that day.  In relation to Thoreau, nature allows you to think about what you really want out of life.  You realize what decisions you are making in order to live your life to the fullest.  If I had the time to go on a walk every day, I so would.
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Re: Week Four Discussion: Walking, Nature, and the Romantic Sublime.

Rachel Crosby
In reply to this post by SteveBrandon
I took a walk around my neighborhood and experiencing nature. I love to just walk all by myself and take in the sites and sounds. I saw many trees moving slightly with the wind and many little animals such as birds and dogs. Taking in the sites and sounds as well as the smell of nature is almost an instant relaxer. Walking around i forget about all the stessers in my life such as bills, kids, work, and school. Its almost like getting to leave your life for a short wile, an escape if you will. Walking in nature made me realize that the life I want to lead is a life without stress. The way it helped give me an idea in how to live a life deliberately, I think it would be benificial to take walks in nature more often to give me an escape.
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Re: Week Four Discussion: Walking, Nature, and the Romantic Sublime.

Emmanuel Ihejirika
In reply to this post by SteveBrandon
For me, it was more an ordeal with sketching out time to find this "wilderness" and leave all worldly distraction and obligations behind. I looked at the assignment, as an escape from the realities of present routine. I set out for this "figurative nature" at Three Lakes Park- off trail in the woods. Being that it was close to sunset, it creeped me out. The thought of being trapped in the woods would've be a real sublime tale! I actually chose a later time, for the least distraction throughout the walk. In "Walking", Thoreau notes many detailed observations and forges a connection and between nature and existence. He even goes far as to say that his meaning of walking has nothing to do with exercise and that we must ruminate (meditate or reflect) in our stride just as a camel. It reminded me to stay focused on myself being in nature.
Through my walk, I took notice to the beauty and sound of birds, insects, and the wind passing through the leaves. I observed the many colors and textures of plants and felt the branches, rocks, and dirt under my feet. Normally nature freaks me out, waiting for some animal to attack me from nowhere. But, here I let it all go. I tried to connect with the minds of Emerson and Thoreau. While I did not become one with the soil or anything. I found an escape and felt in touch with "life". I got to leave behind all the chaos which at the end of the day, is just that. Walking through nature gave me moments of clarity and fresh air.      
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Re: Week Four Discussion: Walking, Nature, and the Romantic Sublime.

Anna Olihnenco
In reply to this post by SteveBrandon
I did not have the opportunity to go out for a walk in the woods this week, but that does not mean that I did not wish I could have. In fact, I really love going outside alone for a couple of reasons: I have three younger siblings under the age of nine, the youngest of whom is one and a half, inevitably making my house probably one of the last places anyone who is searching for peace and quiet would want to go. Another reason I love going outside, especially in the unmarked areas, is because I feel like an adventurer in search of something new and exciting. This mindset allows me to escape the monotony of reality and the stress of various obligations. Being out in an unfamiliar setting heightens my senses as I must begin to evaluate everything as either too dangerous or exciting enough to be worth trying; I focus on remembering where I came from while other responsibilities take a back seat. This is one of the chief reasons why I enjoy biking on unfamiliar roads--I love getting lost. My favorite area to take my bike out is Manakin-Sabot/Goochland--the terrain is unbelievable and most importantly the traffic is minimal. I will ride a route a couple of times, but soon get bored when I am able to anticipate each groove of the road. Instead, I prefer the mystery of not knowing what is ahead, of having to be aware of each turn as I take it and--ah, my favorite part!--cresting each hill to see what lies beyond on the unmarked pavement. For me nature can best be encapsulated in one word--escape. It is an escape from repetitiveness, escape from responsibilities, a liberating getaway from the noise of life itself.
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Re: Week Four Discussion: Walking, Nature, and the Romantic Sublime.

Michelle Herndon
In reply to this post by SteveBrandon
Although I currently live with my dad, when at home, I'm alone for the most part. Sometimes, I sit on my front stoop, or in the back yard and just listen. I listen to the cars speed by, some playing loud music, I listen to the birds sing, or maybe the crickets depending on the time, I watch the wind blow the tress and the clouds move across the payment as they pass in front of the sun. I do this quite often too! It's very relaxing for me and gives me a moment of clarity and peace away from all other things going on in my life. The other day, I took a drive with no intention of going anywhere. I just drove. Once I started driving, I thought I might find an open field and just lay in it. So I did. I closed my eyes and reminisced on younger days when me and my sisters would roll down hills, pick berries off strange trees, climb trees, and feed ducks at a nearby pond. I reminisced on the days when we were in girls scouts, and crossing the bridge to become a brownie. I became vulnerable and naive just laying in the grass, alone. I could have fallen asleep in that field, I was so relaxed and comfortable, knowing I had nothing to do but lay there and be. After my time in the filed, I returned to my car. My car lead me down roads I had never been. There was a feeling or uncertainty and excitement all at the same time. My senses opened up and I became aware of things I normally don't catch, being in an unknown environment. I got the chance to escape my everyday life and do something new and unknown.
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Re: Week Four Discussion: Walking, Nature, and the Romantic Sublime.

Michelle Herndon
In reply to this post by Anna Olihnenco
I love how you describe your biking experiences. They seem really fun and stress relieving! When you said you could encapsulate nature into one word: escape, I felt the same way. Nature is by far the best escape from almost anything.
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Re: Week Four Discussion: Walking, Nature, and the Romantic Sublime.

Michelle Herndon
In reply to this post by Erin Edwards
Thoreau does make a great point about technology. Many people these days are distracted by mechanical toys and gadgets that they don't even know they have a great, entertaining and relaxing area right outside their doors. My geology teacher has told our class that he doesn't have a cell phone and never will have one, move over he doesn't understand why we care to have them. After this week's reading, I'm starting to understand him.
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Re: Week Four Discussion: Walking, Nature, and the Romantic Sublime.

Nicki Carman
In reply to this post by SteveBrandon
I'm naturally an insightful person anyway, and I often take drives (and occasionally walks) to clear my head and figure out how I'm feeling. Two of my favorite places are Pony Pasture and the pipeline. I absolutely love the sound of moving water, so going to Pony Pasture is definitely at the top of my list. Listening to the river calms me down when I'm frustrated or upset and the view is incredible too.  Walking the pipeline is another way for me to get myself in order.  Its downtown and runs parallel to Brown's Island near Belle Isle. All that to say, I wouldn't be the person I am if it weren't for nature walks and late night drives.
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Re: Week Four Discussion: Walking, Nature, and the Romantic Sublime.

Raleigh Kaye
I spend entirely too much time around technology.  I also spend too much time working.  In Thoreau and Emerson's eyes, I would be exactly the opposite of a romanticist or transcendentalist.  While I wasn't able to make it completely away to nature over the past week, I was able to sit out on my friend's roof and look at the stars.  I ignored my phone, I ignored all the sounds of passing cars.  I shut out everything and let in the universe.  I was also sucked back to reality by the distant sounds of trains down the railroad tracks and it bothered me.  I've experienced some of my most beautiful moments outside or in the middle of the woods.  Over the next few weeks, I'm going to make it a point to get out into the woods and experience real nature before it gets too cold.
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Re: Week Four Discussion: Walking, Nature, and the Romantic Sublime.

Sharice Morris
I am the same way with technology. I feel crazy when I cant find my phone or the internet is not working.
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Re: Week Four Discussion: Walking, Nature, and the Romantic Sublime.

Rachel Crosby
Sharice, I also spend way to much time arond technology between work and school, cell phones and internet. It was a great relaxer to get out and walk in nature. I have done it a couple times since it was assigned and it helps me relax alot. With Emerson stating in his 'Self-Relience' that we need to learn to trust ourselves and not society and what other people have to say, walking in nature is a great way to practice and contemplate on the assigned tasks ahead.
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Re: Week Four Discussion: Walking, Nature, and the Romantic Sublime.

Thiago Ogibowski
In reply to this post by SteveBrandon
I absolutely love to get in touch with nature. I cannot remember how many times I've been at the Maymont Park. The first time that I've visited the Maymont Park I thought was hard to believe that Richmond have a park of that side in the middle of the city. This time was a little more special, because at all times I was thinking what Thoreau's essay "Walking" and i just love how he says that we have to enjoy the little things that life provides and how important is to walk through the nature to experience its energy. Once I was walking down the stairs heading to the Japanese garden I was feel a great energy. As an example, I stayed a long time observing the Japanese garden, because someone actually spent a lot of time to put it together. Dedication is a must in the Japanese culture and I think it’s admirable. Nature sometimes, helps me settle down and think of the future but sometimes it also makes worry if my kids will be able to see all these beauty.
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Revisit

Alex Chenault
In reply to this post by SteveBrandon
About a week ago I spent one Saturday riding my motorcycle to the mountains. I had a destination but I was in no hurry to get there. I mainly went for the ride. I hadn't really appreciated nature for what it was until I did that. It was incredibly relaxing and restful. I now understand some of Thoreau's ideas about nature and why he spent a year in nature appreciating it. While I wouldn't be that extreme I understand what he means and how its was relaxing for him.
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Re: Week Four Discussion: Walking, Nature, and the Romantic Sublime.

Rachel Crosby
In reply to this post by Thiago Ogibowski
After a few more weeks in the class I can come back and say that I understand what Thoreau was saying about taking the time for a simple life and stopping to take it all in. My life has been crazy the last couple of weeks and I understand the need for a simpler life. I also understand the importance of taking the time to take it all in and contemplate on what you have read. If you take the time to read it, take the time to think about it, and then reread it. It seems to make everything make so much more sense.
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Re: Week Four Discussion: Walking, Nature, and the Romantic Sublime.

Kelsey Glasco
After doing some more reading in this course, I have come to understand the importance of what Throeau, Emerson, and Poe thought was the meaning of life.  I see now that I need to stop and take in the beauty of life and embrace the joys that I have.  Some of the passages that they write really speak to me and help me see the things that I appreciate about myself and the things around me.
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