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Famous Footsteps

English professor traces Thoreau’s path in Maine
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Looking for an inspirational summer sojourn without the crowds? Bridgewater State University’s Dr. John Kucich has the answer: Head north to remote Maine wilderness where you can connect with nature and Henry David Thoreau, Concord native and famed author of Walden.

“The landscape he saw is still very much there and you can see it through his eyes in a very immediate way,” Kucich said.

And he should know. Kucich, an English professor who has studied Thoreau since high school, traced his literary idol’s Maine footsteps in a 2014 Northern Forest Center trip. His personal odyssey came 150 years after Thoreau published The Maine Woods about his own journey through the state’s northern landscape.

Kucich used his trip as a basis for Rediscovering the Maine Woods: Thoreau's Legacy in an Unsettled Land, a new book he edited. The work, published by University of Massachusetts Press, features an interdisciplinary mix of authors who explore Thoreau, as well as the region’s Native Americans, geology, food and history.

Kucich hopes readers discover “that sense of what it means to live very thoughtfully in a place, particularly in this age so consumed by technology. … In this era of climate change when so much news is really quite depressing, (it’s important) to get in touch with landscapes that are really resilient and vital and whole.”

Kucich, who also co-coordinates BSU’s Center for Sustainability and works Thoreau into his classes, appreciates his message of living simply and deliberately, and environmentalist and anti-consumerist values.

One day, he might even take BSU students on their own Thoreauvian adventure, only traveling Massachusetts’ Taunton River instead of the Penobscot River that was part of the 2014 Maine expedition.

Maine’s woods have evolved between Thoreau’s and Kucich’s journeys thanks to the comings and goings of loggers, settlers and conservationists, but Kucich thinks Thoreau would be pleased to see a landscape he would still recognize.

“The sense was we saw fewer people than he did,” he said.

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