Shattuck takes literature enthusiasts through Thoreauvian walk of Destruction Brook Woods

Oct 8, 2022

Dartmouth author Ben Shattuck’s favorite Henry David Thoreau quote goes “I must accept my life as passively as a willoughby that passes down the brook” — a fitting statement, especially as he led a group of nature and literature enthusiasts on a walk through Destruction Brook Woods on Friday.

The trek was part of South Coast Almanac’s Walking Book Tour series, which brings together stories related to places in the region. 

In previous walks, groups explored Westport Point with “In the Wake of the Willows” by author Fred Thurber and toured New Bedford’s hurricane barrier with the Army Corps of Engineers while discussing Everett Allen’s “A Wind To Shake the World.”

Marlissa Brigget, the publisher of South Coast Almanac, said selecting Shattuck as the latest walk was a no-brainer.

“It’s about walking, he’s from the South Coast, and we’re walking!” she said. “I thought, gosh, this is what we’re going to do. We’re so grateful to Ben for accompanying us.”

During the trek, Shattuck would stop to read passages of his recently released book “Six Walks: In the Footsteps of Henry David Thoreau,” his authorial debut. 

One such reading, done near the brook at Ella's Bridge, was a paragraph from his walk of Wachusett Mountain, a place Shattuck said is very similar to the Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust trail.

“It was in the fall when you have that sort of beautiful green light streaming through,” he said.

There was also a stop for a themed snack near Alice’s Spillway. 

Briggett said she tries to provide something related to each book. At first she wanted to bring some “heavy cake,” which Shattuck mentions early in his book. Upon a quick search, Briget found that the cake is actually raisin bread, which isn’t portable to share with such a large crowd. 

Instead, Brigett brought some old fashioned hermits, something she said was especially fitting for a Thoreau walk. Shattuck, though, contends that the famed naturalist was far from reclusive.

He notes that Thoreau once proposed to a woman named Ellen Sewall. In fact, Shattuck said, there is a collection of stones at the Concord museum consisting of rocks the two found during outings, a common activity to pass time in the 19th century.

Thoreau was also “very close with his family” and the “fun uncle” to the children of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Shattuck said.

“Because of ‘Walden,’ he’s [seen] as a solitary — a misanthrope,” Shattuck said. “He was so intense, he wasn’t just in the cabin, sitting by the fire and writing about crickets the whole time.”

Shattuck also spoke about the ways walking through nature can take one back in time. 

Though the world is more developed than the mid 1800s, he said walking off the path in a place like Destruction Brook Woods can take you “essentially in Thoreau’s wilderness.”

“There is no difference,” Shattuck said. 

“Six Walks: In the Footsteps of Henry David Thoreau'' is available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Davoll’s General Store. To learn more about South Coast almanac’s literary walks, visit