Grady Harp


5.0 out of 5 stars
REVISED: ‘The woods were a testing of your self-awareness, weren’t they?’October 16, 2017
Format: Kindle Edition

Mathias B. Freese is a writer, teacher, and psychotherapist. His recent collection of essays, THS MOBIUS STRIP OF IFS, was the winner of the National Indie Excellence Book Award of 2012 in general nonfiction and a 2012 Global Ebook Award finalist. His I TRULY LAMENT: WORKING THROUGH THE HOLOCAUST was one of three finalists chosen in the 2012 Leapfrog Press Fiction Contest out of 424 submissions. The same quality of humanity shines through on every page of his ’memoir’ TESSERAE– a sacred vessel of memoires and how they nurture us – received seven awards. And now he brings us AND THEN I AM GONE: A WALK WITH THOREAU

The title of this luminous book – AND THEN I AM GONE – conjures a diary’s end, a ‘last note’, a suicide letter, but none of those ideas is in these radiant pages. As will as all of Matt’s books this is a book of philosophy, a reflection of a life of meaning and of living and finally coming to face the need to have it all make sense. To borrow from another of his books, ‘What is it to remember? To recall, retrieve, reflect, to go back for a moment, to feel a period of time long since gone. What is it to have memory in this organic memory box that we own? What purpose does the past serve in the present other than societal clichés about it? Why do we have associative feelings when we dredge up an early memory? What is memory’s purpose?’

Matt moves from New York City to Harvest, Alabama seeing simplicity: ‘Here I am in Harvest, Alabama… I came to Harvest for my last inning. Harvest promises some substance before I take my last swan dive into oblivion. There is a line in a B movie, Marguerite, that grabs my attention: “To exist is to insist.” There is much existential weight to that. When insistence ends, we end. I came to Harvest for the last roundup, to make my insistence apparent to me first and then others—if they care at all.’

But instead of somnolence of thinking he instead blends with Thoreau’s existential philosophy. Matt wants his retreat from the societal “it” to be a brave safari for the self rather than cowardly avoidance, so who better to guide him but Henry David Thoreau, the self-aware philosopher who retreated to Walden Pond “to live deliberately” and cease “the hurry and waste of life”? Part 1 is that preparation: Part 2 is Matt’s walk with Thoreau. And that is enough to beckon you into this lovely book.

In addition to being profoundly inspiring to read this book interjects humor so pungent in recognition of our times – ‘When I think of America’s current president, Donald Trump, a living malapropism, I feel mortified that he exists, Henry, that his corruptive and corrupting self is gangrenous. He would appall you and your counterpart, Emerson. I am so disappointed with my fellow Americans, but most societies wane and fall, and this nation is in that dynamic ‘

If you are able to resist plunging into this comforter then perhaps you need this book even more than most. Matt is wise, thoughtful, inspiring and a very fine writer. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, October 17


Reviewed by Jan Peregrine

And Then I Am Gone: A Walk with Thoreau
by Mathias B. Freese
Paperback: 126 pages, September 22, 2017, ISBN-13: 978-1627875387

Though I’m not a 76-year-old atheist of Jewish background (far from it), nor have I lived in urban New York, Nevada, or rural Alabama (the latter being the setting for his ‘latest philosophical musings) or appreciate Woody Allen’s deprecating humor, I feel a rather bittersweet kinship with Mathias B. Freese, author of And I Am Gone: A Walk With Thoreau. We share an understanding in many ways.

In the chaos of sharing a well-appointed cabin with his beloved, last wife, too often being irritated with home and Internet repair, increasing health concerns, and the unprofressionalism of hired labor, Freese describes his preferred style of being a professional, (retired) psychotherapist. While I’ve only created a psychoanalytic character mysteriously calling herself Dr. Freudine for over a decade, Freese and I believe in client-centered therapy where the therapist pays complete attention to his or her client and leaves notetaking until after the session ends. Such therapist puts down his overall, experiential-like impressions, which is what my Dr. Freudine did.

This is his second memoir, the first book of his I’ve read, and he expresses the hope that his invariably few readers may learn to see better, in an existential way.

I think Freese excels more in helping his readers to feel. As his own therapist has summed up Freese’s gift for humanity, to paraphrase, his therapeutic presence glories in being felt. He listens. He observes. Yes, he offers an ‘abundance of awareness.’

Not only do Freese and I concur on how a psychotherapist best engages with a client, but our approach to writing books also bisects. I too write to try to understand myself, indeed without outlines or a rigid plot structure. I daresay he would nod eagerly in understanding that your characters, given the chance, tell the story for you if you’ll listen to them, and in a more honest, exciting way.

You may call me an underground existentialist, Mr. Freese,. I see better through my fictitious characters’ eyes, and in the novel I’m writing the characters are struggling with their identities.

Other things in his book I can relate to include a profound disappointment and criticism of the shocking 2016 election for U.S. President (though he avoids praising Hillary Clinton, which I never would), an impatience and alienation with religion as I’m also an atheist, and a love of clever books and films.

I probably won’t face the specter of death for many decades, unlike Freese, and his preoccupation with death can be depressing. He has written an award-winning book about the Jewish Holocaust, but so many people today frustratingly choose to forget about the tragedy and to deny that they’ll one day die. I don’t deny that it happened or that I’ll die, but I wouldn’t care to read more about it. Maybe if I was much older, Jewish, and of a dark nature.

How I wish I too could walk in the woods as if with Henry David Thoreau!

Yes, you’re right that if an senior “at risk” citizen can do it, so could I, except that I must use a power scooter. Maybe you could for me, hmm?

Freese writes about not living for the answers to life, but living in the questions. He grieves that facing death, so largely about losing control of his life, is all that he’s left with in his cabin. Loving his wife and a visit by his son create some joy in his remaining days, but writing has become more elusive, even bewildering. Although he still hopes to write another reflective book.

NURTURE Book Tour – And Then I Am Gone: A Walk with Thoreau by Mathias B. Freese

Please join us from November 20th-December 15th, 2017 as And Then I Am Gone: A Walk with Thoreau by Mathias B. Freese, tours with NURTURE Book Tours™.


This is a chapter from  SCREE,  a memoir of my recent sojourn to Harvest, Alabama. It is influenced, in part, from my readings about Thoreau.


It’s about an acre. Let us start by the creek over here. The bridge makes it charming and it runs with brim. Over here is a retaining wall we had put in to prevent flooding but it may not be long enough, “BO” Carlisle informed us, and he has grown up in the area, hunted on this very land as a young boy. It was depressing to hear that as we spent an awful amount on that wall for flood protection. He is a kind and reliable grizzled old coot who knows how to fix things well, but I cannot understand what in the world he tells me because it is all mixed up in Alabama patois. Follow me here, Henry. As you can see we have set aside areas for planting about trees, using mulch, and before the deck there is

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