Day 80 of 365
It’s hard to describe how much Thoreau has influenced my life, but Walden was a life changer for me when I read it for the second time in my mid 30s. Then, a few years ago, I read Laura Dassow-Walls biography of Thoreau, and my life was changed again. I fell in love with this human who lived so long ago. I knew and understood him from Dassow-Walls’ magnificent biography, and I became more interested in ever in visiting Walden Pond. Last summer, I devoted a whole issue of Farmer-ish to Thoreau. The essays in this issue are magnificent to me. I published another essay on Thoreau for a separate publication, and I had the honor to interview Laura Dassow-Walls. She was just as awesome as I had hoped and helped me understand that Thoreau was just as awesome as I had hoped.
Still, I thought it would be years before I would be able to visit Walden.
Today, however, we were on our way to take our son to a museum in Massachusetts. The museum is west of Boston. On our way, I started seeing signs for Concord. The reality of how close we might be came over me in almost a panic. We had not planned to visit Walden Pond, but we were going to be so close.
I starting Googling directions and hours for the park and then asked Ron if we could do it. He hates driving on such long trips, so I was unsure. When he said, “Just read the directions to me after the museum,” I started to cry a little bit.
I have to tell you that spending 2 and 1/2 hours in the war museum just about killed me. I had to get out of there, but I hid my anxiousness. Our son loves world history and is fascinated by World War I and II, so I hid my anxiousness. It was hard though.
When we first arrived at Walden, we couldn’t find where to park. Again, my anxiousness was epic. Finally, finally, we found parking, and finally, finally, finally, after 20 years of deep study of Henry David Thoreau’s life and work, after living my life according to the principals of his teaching–at least as I understand them–I walked up to the shore of Walden Pond.
I took off my shoes and felt the water. It was crowded on the front side of the park though, and I knew I needed to see the good stuff. I got out the map and found where we needed to go to see the site of Thoreau’s original cabin–the cabin I have imagined in my head for my entire adult life.
We had not eaten since a very early breakfast. We had no water since early morning. But we hiked in the heat and humidity away from all the people, and we made it to the site.
I broke down and cried. I touched the dirt with my hands. I stood next to the site of the original chimney. Our son, who had been complaining a bit about the hike in the heat with no water suddenly understood the power of the moment for me. He hugged me. He reached down and touched the soil too. He doesn’t know Thoreau like I do, but he loves me, and I was so excited to see him reading the signs and instructional posts in the area.
When we finished, we went to the gift shop, and it was hard to control myself. I got a t-shirt and too many books and Thoreau and Son pencils for Farmer-ish readers–and I talked to the shop keeper. At first, she was kind of short with us, but as we lingered and my son charmed her and I talked to her about my love of Thoreau, she warmed to us.
She asked me, “Did you make it to the original site?”
“We did,” I replied. And I teared up again and put my hand on my heart.
She looked at me so kindly then and said, “I was the same way my first time.”
Today, I put my feet in Walden Pond. Today, I saw the site where Thoreau lived. I saw his cove in the pond. And I saw a chipmunk on the trail! One day soon, I will have to tell you with this was so significant. But it’s a long story. For now, I am tired but feeling more fortunate than words can possibly express.
Today was a religious experience for me.