From the bedroom window of a country house, I see the moon's reflection on the Hudson River.
I think of Flaubert in his house by the Seine. From the bedroom, he wrote, "I can hear the great tulip-tree under my window rustling in the wind, and when I lift my eyes I see the reflection of the moon in the river."
Different rivers, the same moon.
At night, Flaubert saw the boats of eel fishers on the Seine. Through the branches of a maple tree I see, in the distance, a single flashing beacon on the river.
Even when traveling on the Nile, Flaubert's thoughts turned to the Seine. "Somewhere, far away, on a river gentler and younger than this, I know a white house, and I know that its shutters are closed because I am not there."
The Hudson flows south through the highlands past New York City to the open sea.
From my bedroom in the city no river is visible, but I do see the moon shining on apartment houses, brownstones, gardens, and the dome of a St. Jean Baptiste Church.
My bedroom measures 14 by 14 feet, about the size of Thoreau's one-room cabin.
In his cabin by Walden Pond, Thoreau hosted an annual meeting of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. Emerson was a frequent visitor. My gatherings are more modest.
From his cabin, Thoreau set out on daily walks that lasted several hours. He carried with him, Emerson noted, an old music book in which to press plants, and in his pocket a diary, pencil, and jackknife. A friend described him as "a sort of resident Surveyor-General of the town's farms, farmers, animals, and everything else it contains."
I, too, with pencil and notebook, set out from my apartment to survey, not woods, streams, fields, and hills, but sidewalks, store windows, fruit stands, and street lamps in the 32-block area where I was born, grew up, and now live.
Flaubert. Thoreau. Both enrich my daily life.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society