Thick fog lay over Walden pond, lazy and unwilling to break apart, no different than the thick clouds blanketing the sky. Few birds sang even though it was mid morning, but so everything was so grey that the animals were just starting to wake up. My parents and I walked along the side path that lead us from the Walden Swimming Resort building to Henry David Thoreau's cabin site, taking note of how picturesque Walden really was. Water like glass, almost no sound but nature's whispers.
School children had left educational signs along the path, showing what turns the Maple trees red, and why some trees stay green.
Strolling, listening, absorbing, we took our time.
Upon reaching the cabin site, we heard teenage voices in the distance. There wasn't much time before the old home would be over run by quick energy. We were slow, on the other hand, like him, and we took our time trying to feel what he felt. What Henry felt.
Large stones rose behind a brown sign, similar to those you see in national parks with the words carved deeply in sans serif white, which read: "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."
Standing still, I breathed in truth and longing as I whispered the quote aloud to myself. We all want the woods, we all want the solitude. Or some are afraid of it, perhaps? I know I used to be. But setting foot on Thoreau's humble cabin site reinforced my own calling to simplify simplify simplify. What was I doing, running around all day checking off my "to-do" list? And for what? For some paycheck so that I could feel safe?
It's about what makes us feel truly safe. It's about that that. And I know this is not singular, we all need to feel safe.
I imagined Henry (I like to call him by his first name), building his cabin joyfully with a couple friends. I imagined him taking long walks around Walden to see his favorite trees, and maybe even planting some seeds along the way since the lumber lot had been well used at that point in time. I imagined him making soups and beans, and walking into town every week to see a friend or to buy a few supplies, like ink and paper. I imagined him self sufficient, spending hours taking care and preparing for weather, but also spending hours observing.
High schoolers appeared between the trees, jogging and scrambling toward us with their agenda to learn details of a man who they were most likely reading about in class. Did they understand his message? Did they feel the necessity of his solitude? They were chattering about text messaged and plans after school so I couldn't be sure.
My Mom and I started walking back along the same path, my father splitting from us and taking the 1.5 miles around the rest of the pond. If he didn't do this, he'd be dwelling in regret for days.
Mom and I walked in silence a bit and also shared thoughts about Walden pond. Sacred and soft, we shared a special time, just Mom and me.
I had not read Henry Thoreau's work before visiting Walden, but I'd heard his tale. I wanted to buy some of his books, so we headed to the gift shop and waited for my Dad while we perused trinkets. There was a video about Walden, well directed and quite moving, and some displays of Thoreau's journals and scientific findings so visitors could understand more about the ecology of Walden pond, just as Thoreau did. Oh how I want that deliberation. At least his writings I could take with me.
Leaving Walden, my parents and I drove back toward the main highway, knowing we caught a special glimpse into life beyond the potent layers of society: achievment, institutions, productivity. We saw into a young man's intention and presence, his strong will to moderate his life according to his soul's wishes. Walden gave him this opportunity, and in turn, he gave it to us.
Where is your Walden?