In the hot summer of 2004, David Leff floated away from the routine of daily life just as Henry David Thoreau and his brother had done in their own small boat in 1839. Fortified with Thoreau’s observations as revealed in A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, Leff brought his own concept of mindful deep travel to these same New England waterways. His first-person narrative uses his ecological way of looking, of going deep rather than far, to show that our outward journeys are inseparable from our inward ones.
How we see depends on where we are in our lives and with whom we travel. Leff chose his companions wisely. In consecutive journeys his neighbor and friend Alan, a veteran city planner; his son Josh, an energetic eleven-year-old; and his sweetheart Pamela, a compassionate professional caregiver, added their perspectives to Leff’s own experiences as a government official in natural resources policy. Not so much sight seeing as sight seeking, together they explored a geography of the imagination as well as the rich natural and human histories of the rivers and their communities.
The heightened awareness of deep travel demands that we immerse ourselves fully in places and realize that they exist in time as well as space. Its mindfulness enriches the experience and makes the voyager worthy of the journey. Leff’s intriguing, contemplative deep travel along these historic rivers presents a methodology for exploration that will enrich any trip.
About the Author
David Leff retired in 2006 as deputy commissioner, Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, where he was responsible for conservation programs involving parks, forests, fisheries, and wildlife. Now a newspaper columnist and essayist, he is also the author of The Last Undiscovered Place, and a book of poems, The Price of Water.
“In the wake of Thoreau, Leff paddles acutely, scrying the traces of the past in the natural and human complexity of the riverine present: an original book of long-term value.”—John Stilgoe, Harvard University
“Borrowing one of David Leff’s puns, I ‘Thoreauly’ enjoyed this book. Deep Travel carries the reader along on a strong current of narrative, and offers ample time to look over the gunwales and join the gliding waters in reflection. Leff follows Thoreau’s paddle-strokes not only by traveling the same rivers, but by creating a ‘fusion of inward and outward experience,’ incorporating essay-like musing about time and place—and the power of both stories and history to evoke them. Deep Travel is a primer on the art of ‘sight-seeking’ and ‘forensic observation,’ and Leff offers penetrating readings of the river, the vernacular landscape, and Thoreau.”—Ian Marshall, author, Peak Experiences: Walking Meditations on Literature, Nature, and Need and Walden by Haiku