John Blay is a humble Australian bushman who is uncomfortable about comparisons with Henry Thoreau, but let me explore the parallel a little. Now in his seventies, Blay lives at Eden on the south coast of New South Wales with his beloved forests at his back. He has spent 40 years exploring them on foot and celebrating them in writing, most recently in his book Wild Nature: Walking Australia’s South East Forests (2020). The book completes a trilogy that began with Trek Through the Back Country (1987) and continued with On Track: Searching out the Bundian Way (2015). Most of his writing is inspired by close, sustained engagement on foot with rugged, wild, untracked bush.
Henry David Thoreau (1817–62) lived in Concord, Massachusetts, in the north-eastern United States and was happiest when he could spend four hours of each day on foot exploring his local woodlands. Almost everything he wrote sprang from these adventures. Thoreau is most famous for spending two years living alone in a hut by Walden Pond, on the outskirts of Concord. His book about that experience, Walden (1854), became a celebrated classic of nature writing. Americans revere it, often representing it as a solitary spiritual meditation on wilderness.
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