I went to the woods 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. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartanlike as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it…” (Henry David Thoreau, Walden).

“‘Sleeper, awake, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you’” (Ephesians 5:14)

“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10b).


I know what you’re wondering. Shouldn’t that be “Barrow, Alaska”?

Not today. Marrow, AK isn’t a place; it’s an attitude. On our trip, my wife Susan quoted the Thoreau passage above, letting us know she was as determined to get everything from the beauty and wonder of the state as the poet was from his experience in the woods.

And indeed she did suck out the marrow, relishing everything that happened, because she was in Alaska. So did Jeff and LuAnn (Susan’s younger brother and his wife) who particularly on the return leg of a glacier cruise stayed on the bow of the ship scanning for wildlife while so many of the other tourists (including me) were in the warm cabin napping. Their vigilance paid off, too. Jeff spotted Dall’s porpoises pacing the ship as it cut through the water.

If we sleep or sleepwalk through life, we miss so much. Instead, why not be present to the moment, eyes and mind and heart open, not afraid to express the full range of emotions, “putting to rout all that [is] not life”? Why not adopt as our goal the one my niece Page has set for herself: “I want to explore every inch of the world and when I’m done, go back and see how it has changed” (http://laddertothesun.tumblr.com)?

“Living is so dear.” Indeed, let it not be said of any of us that when we came to the end, we not had fully lived.

© 2011 Tom Cheatham