Brad wrote extensively on Thoreau and edited two of Thoreau’s previously unpublished book-length manuscripts, The Dispersion of Seeds (in Faith in a Seed, Island Press, 1993), of which Robert D. Richardson wrote: “From behind the pressing issue of fecundity in Thoreau's manuscript there emerges, tentatively and incompletely, but unmistakably, a powerful metaphor of death and rebirth”; and Wild Fruits (Norton, 2000), which John Elder noted would “consolidate Thoreau’s reputation as a foreunner of modern ecology.” Brad also edited Letters to a Spiritual Seeker (Norton, 2004), a collection of letters Thoreau wrote to H. G. O. Blake over the course of thirteen years; Thomas Moore identified these letters as “an important American contribution to our thinking about spirit and religion.” You’ll find brief excerpts from each of these books below.

“When crossing a hilltop in September or October, I often amuse myself with pulling to pieces and letting fly the withered and dry pasture thistle tops, and to my mind they carry as much weight as some larger bodies. When lately the comet was hovering in our northwest horizon, the thistledown received the greater share of my attention. Perhaps one whose down is particularly spreading and open rises steadily from your hand, freighted with its seed, till it is several hundred feet high and then passes out of sight eastward. Was not here a hint to balloonists? Astronomers can calculate the orbit of that thistledown called the comet, conveying its nucleus, which may not be so solid as a thistle seed, somewhither; but what astronomer can calculate the orbit of your thistledown and tell where it will deposit its precious freight at last? It may still be traveling when you are sleeping.”

“Afternoon to the Hill for white-pine cones. Very few trees have any, and they are of course at the tops. I can manage only small trees fifteen or twenty feet high, climbing till I can reach the dangling green pickle-like fruit with my right hand while I hold to the main stem with my left (but I am in a pickle when I get one). The cones are now all flowing with pitch and my hands are soon so covered with it that I cannot easily cast down my booty when I would, it stick to my fingers so; and when I get down at last and have picked them up, I cannot touch my basket with such hands, but carry it on my arm, nor can I pick up my coat which I have taken off, unless with my teeth, or else I kick it up and catch it on my arm. Thus I go from tree to tree rubbing my hands from time to time in brooks and mud holes in the hope of finding something that will remove pitch, as grease does, but in vain. It is the stickiest work I ever did, yet I stick to it.”

“I find that actual events, notwithstanding the singular prominence which we allow them, are far less real than the creations of my imagination. They are truly visionary and insignificant—all that we commonly call life & death—and affect me less than my dreams. This petty stream which from time to time swells & carries away the mills and bridges of our habitual life—and that mightier stream or ocean on which we securely float—what makes the difference between them? I have in my pocket a button which I ripped off the coat of the Marquis of Ossoli on the sea-shore the other day. Held up it intercepts the light—an actual button—and yet all the life it is connected with is less substantial to me, and interests me less, than my faintest dream. Our thoughts are the epochs in our lives, all else is but as a journal of the winds that blew while we were here.”


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