American Transcendentalism: An Online Travel Guide



Walden Pond




New York



At Home

Margaret Fuller &
Elizabeth Peabody

Ralph Waldo

Henry David

Bronson Alcott






The Shepherd 

Journals        Poetry    Special Presentations    Syllabus    WebQuests     Links & References    About This Site


A Page from Sarah’s Journal

January 2002

While reading Annie Dillard’s description of her encounter with the weasel, I just kept thinking “Wow!” to myself because her description is phenomenal. She gets the feeling so exactly right, and I feel like I am there with her. Perhaps that’s because I have a fascination (obsession) with animals. Ever since I was a very small child, I have felt a close connection with the animal world. I sometimes think I’d rather live with animals than with people. My mom thought I would be a Buddhist because I never killed bugs in our house. I’d catch them and put them outside. I was a very emotional child, and I always felt that I had an emotional connection with animals that no one else could understand. 

When I was probably 7 or so, I brought a caterpillar home from school. I was overjoyed

Above: Sarah Alouf posing as Emily Dickinson (photo by TC Williams).



until I realized that I had taken him from his family. I was home alone with my dad while my mom was at work, so I asked Dad to take me back to the school. I desperately wanted, and needed, to take my new friend back to his home. Dad couldn’t get me to stop crying, so he called my mom at work. She first asked Dad why he wouldn’t just take me back to the school to return the caterpillar. Dad said, “I’m not taking her back to the school just for a stupid caterpillar.” In her ever-patient way, she told him to put me back on the phone. Mom (being well in tune with my sense of the dramatic and my emotional life) told me to put the caterpillar outside in the bush beside our porch. She promised that we’d check on him when she got home. If he was still where I left him when she got home, she’d take me back to the school. If he was gone, he had found a new family. Of course he was gone when she got home, but I couldn’t appreciate my mom’s genius for many years. Through many incidents like that, she fostered my connection with and adoration of nature. She never once made me feel silly for caring so deeply, and she often joined me in my sense of wonder. Though she lived on a farm and raised rabbits, a nest of baby bunnies in our yard still captures her heart as much as it captures mine.

Now as an adult, I am still filled with joy and wonder when I encounter nature. My most memorable experience was running across a fawn while hiking. I know we experienced the same moment that Annie and the weasel felt: “Our eyes locked, and someone threw away the key.” The fawn was too young to be afraid, so we stood in perfect stillness and quiet, staring at each other. I creeped closer and closer slowly, wondering when it would get spooked. The moment was perfect. The fawn’s soft brown eyes looked at me inquisitively and its ears twitched. It was just as fascinated with me as I was with it. It even took an uneasy step toward me as youthful curiosity overpowered caution. The moment was only broken when the fawn’s mother stepped into the clearing. She snorted at me and started running into another section of the woods. The fawn ran away suddenly to follow her, and I felt the “yank of separation” that Annie felt. Our connection was instantly broken, and I frowned in disappointment when the fawn vanished into the woods. It was a beautiful moment while it lasted, and I cherish it.

I will forever be grateful to my mom for completely understanding me and nurturing my over-sensitivity instead of trying to squelch it. Though other people have told me I am “too thin-skinned” and “too touchy-feely,” she made me realize that my feelings are perfectly valid. Thanks to my mom, I feel like my sensitivity is a gift, not a fault. She is the most wonderful person in the world, and I only hope I can be the mother she is.



Take a look at more of Sarah’s journaling and some of her poetry.



Sarah Alouf is an English major at Shepherd College.


“American Transcendentalism: An Online Travel Guide” was produced by students in ENGL 446, American Transcendentalism, and ENGL 447, American Literature and the Prominence of Place: A Travel Practicum. These courses were team-taught in the Department of English at Shepherd College (now Shepherd University), Shepherdstown, West Virginia, in Spring 2002 by Dr. Patricia Dwyer and Dr. Linda Tate. For more information on the course and the web project, visit “About This Site.” © 2003 Linda Tate.