As some of you have doubtless noticed in your own reading of the Journal, in the mid-to-late 1850s Thoreau becomes . . . obsessed with turtles. Robert Khun McGregor has characterized these scenes as 'small dramas of survival' where Thoreau attempts 'to find the meaning in a mud turtle’s lunch' (2). In 1854, Thoreau’s turtle endeavors include paternally watching over a nest of eggs that he’s stumbled on; struggling to lift the unobliging and unwieldy creatures into his boat; and sleeping with a large turtle shell in his bedroom — an event that occasions pure delight. Recalling in the morning that the shell lies near him, Thoreau exclaims, 'That the first object you see on awakening should be an empty mud-turtle’s shell!! Will it not make me of the earth earthy? or does it not indicate that I am of the earth earthy?' (Journal 8 300).
Jul 31, 2013
In looking for information about Thoreau and turtles (what? that doesn’t interest you?), I came across the site of Dr. Sandra Harbert Petrulionis:
I’m not the only one who finds the subject appealing. Here is David Wagoner’s poem, “Thoreau and the Mud Turtle” from Michigan Quarterly Review.
The poem is a bit prosy for my tastes—it feels like raw content more than honed poetry, but that raw content is pretty compelling. Based on the scant evidence above, what would you say about Thoreau's mental health?