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Posts Tagged ‘Concord Massachusetts’

Walden:Oct.

Aug. 9. Wednesday. —To Boston.
“Walden” published. Elder-berries. Waxwork yellowing.

Henry David Thoreau’s journal entry of August 9, 1854

On August 9, 1854, “Walden, or Life in the Woods” was published. While not a best seller of its time, the book was favorably received and  the 2,000 published copies eventually sold. It has remained in publication since 1862. Thoreau was an early environmentalist, attune to nature and living simply. “Walden” continues to be a source of inspiration and Thoreau is often quoted.

I have posted the photo above before in my ramblings here on the Cutoff. It was taken one crisp, sunny, perfect October day a decade or so ago. That day remains one of the best days in my life. Tom and I ordered a lunch from a deli in Concord, Massachusetts then headed to Walden Pond, where we took a long walk in the woods of Thoreau, and ate our lunch sitting on the sun-warmed stones along the pond’s shore, watching rowers and swimmers and shorebirds as we soaked in the brilliance of time and place.

I thought about Walden Pond this morning after reading of today’s anniversary of the publishing of “Walden” and found my mind, then myself, wandering in nature.

As I pulled into the parking area of Lake Katherine, my cell phone rang. It was Tom wondering if I wanted to join him at Maple Lake, where he was headed. It’s interesting how our unspoken ideas often intersect. Tom said he would meet me instead at Lake Katherine.

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I started walking around the lake, stopping to look at the beauty around me. A large congregation of ducks were taking their afternoon nap, close to the shore. I stepped a little closer, hoping not to disturb them, when something fluttered in a nearby tree.  Can you see it on the far right branch?

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I watched for a few minutes before it swept down, slipped amongst the ducks, then wandered to the water’s edge. It wasn’t a duck. It looked like a heron, but, was much smaller and I could see a crop of molting head feathers.

The ducks continued their nap while I inched closer to this shorebird, which reminded me of a black-crowned heron,  with long still-like legs moving slowly through the shallow water and grasses.

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This bird was surely a youngster, just getting his feet wet, not at all concerned with my closeness (and I was less than a yard away at times). At one point, the bird grabbed at a reed of grass and looked surprised when it didn’t budge or taste as expected.

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It walked along the edge, sometimes hidden by the tall grasses, other times perched upon a rock. A gaggle of youngsters in bright pink shirts came by, looking for clues on a summer camp adventure. A trio of men walked by, white shirts and ties loosened, taken a walk on their lunch break, wondering, I’m sure, at what I was intent on photographing.

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I think this is a member of the Bittern family. The photos are a bit dark, but, if you click on them they are easier to see the bird.

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Tom found me and we walked the mile or so around the lake, sat for a bit while he ate his lunch, enjoying the gorgeous day, before we parted, each of us having a place to be. As I drove away, I thought of Walden and Thoreau and of how his legacy of actions and words resonate even today, and I thought of his essay, “Walking”, and of a simple walk, full of discovery, in nature today.

I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil—to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature . . . from “Walking” by Henry David Thoreau

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My admiration of Louisa May Alcott is known among my friends and documented on these cyber-pages. I can still see the tear stained pages of my first copy of Little Women as Beth takes her last breath; how I tried not to sob on my library book, failing miserably.  I was a young girl, a not-so-young girl, a granny, and I’ve treasured Alcott’s books and books about Alcott ever since that first schoolgirl reading.

We walked around Walden Pond a few years ago. I imagined Jo and Laurie skating on ice there and Meg falling in. I imagined Alcott’s friend, Henry Thoreau, talking to a young Louisa as she looked on in admiration. We walked through the rooms of Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts and I marveled at the simple desk she penned her most famous novel and many more works and we visited Concord’s cemetery, Sleepy Hollow. Author’s Ridge is high on top, overlooking the town, and it is there that Emerson, Hawthorne, and Thoreau are buried and there where Louisa May rests in the simple grave above the famous town.

When my friend Sharon told me of a presentation of Alcott at the Elmhurst Historical Museum, I just knew I had to go.

Leslie Goddard, in period costume, a deep purple day dress with long, flowing sleeves and lace collar, gave a riveting impersonation of Louisa May Alcott, speaking about her experiences as a Union war nurse during the Civil War. Taken from Alcott’s “Hospital Sketches”, Ms. Goddard excelled in bringing the author to life with the wit and compassion found in Alcott’s writing.

Goddard, as Alcott, told of her eagerness to be part of the war and how she enlisted as a nurse with Dorothea Dix. She told of the hardships of war and the horrible injuries suffered and of the dying man she tended to, staying with him until his last breath, holding his hand and then carefully prying it away, his grip still tight after he passed away. She also told of the illness she suffered, typhus pneumonia, after only being at the hospital for three weeks and which ended her military nursing.

It was an amazing dramatization. I wish you could have been there to see it. Thank you Sharon for telling me about it and sharing the experience. It so gratifying to spend time with friends, learn new things, and be further enlightened about a favorite author.

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