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Posts Tagged ‘Walden Pond’

“Some single trees, wholly bright scarlet, seen against others of their kind still freshly green, or against evergreens, are more memorable than whole groves will be by-and-by. How beautiful, when a whole tree is like one great fruit full of ripe juices, every leaf from lowest limb to topmost spire, all aglow, especially if you look toward the sun! What more remarkable object can there be in the landscape? Visible for miles, too fair to be believed. If such a phenomenon occurred but once, it would be handed down by tradition to posterity, and get into the mythology at last.”

-From “Autumnal Tints” by Henry Thoreau; 1862

 

One of our most memorable moments was on a fine October day, ten or so years ago, at Walden Pond. You can read about it here. On that remarkable day, Tom and I walked and talked and didn’t talk, seeing the original site of Thoreau’s cabin and a reconstruction of it. The air was crisp and clear and the scenery mystical. The photo on top was taken on Walden Pond on that long ago day.

Across the pond, a singular tree accented the landscape and glowed like no other. When Thoreau’s quote popped up in my internet wandering, I immediately thought of the scarlet tree at Walden Pond.

Thoreau’s quote and our Walden Pond walk came to mind once more as Tom and I walked, much closer to home, at one of our favorite spots, Lake Katherine. It was the same sort of cool, crisp October day, with the sun shining, powder puff clouds sprinkled here and there, the soft crunch of fallen leaves at our feet  – and the brilliant mythology of Autumn before us.

Right red

 

Where do you go to find your own myths of nature?

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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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. . . where you are.

On my library visits, I have been making it a point to bring home a book or two of poetry. Poets I know and poets I don’t find their way into my arms as I attempt to broaden my poetic horizons. Most recently, New and Selected Poems, by Mary Oliver, has been sitting at my side. I bookmarked (with a real book mark) The Black Walnut Tree.  I’ve read this poem a few times over, thinking about our own trees here on the Cutoff and our walnut harvest last fall.

I was so sorry to hear through Nan’s blog, Letters from a Hill Farm, that Mary Oliver has cancelled all speaking engagements. She has taken ill.  As I thumbed through the book this morning, another poem presented itself to me. Poems have a way of doing that, don’t they? They sit and wait until just the right time to introduce themselves. I thought it might be fitting way to honor Mary Oliver by posting it today.

The picture is ours, one of hundreds taken at Walden Pond, but the message I hear from the poem is a simple one. As simple as the idea of Walden. It is wherever you are.

Going to Walden
Mary Oliver

It isn’t very far as highways lie.
I might be back by nightfall, having seen
The rough pines, and the stones, and the clear water
Friends argue that I might be wiser for it.
They do not hear that far-off Yankee whisper:
How dull we grow from hurrying here and there!

Many have gone, and think me half a fool
To miss a day away in the cool country.
Maybe.  But in a book I read and cherish,
Going to Walden is not so easy a thing
As a green visit.   It is the slow and difficult
Trick of living, and finding it where you are.

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Men of Concord

Prize Farmer

December 28, 1853. E. W—–, who got the premium on farms this year, keeps twenty-eight cows, which are milked before breakfast, or 6 o’clock, his hired men rising at 4:30 A.M.; but he gives them none of the milk in their coffee.

 Men of Concord, by Henry D. Thoreau. F. H. Allen: Editor. N. C. Wyeth, Illustrator. Page 110.

With twenty minutes to spare before my luncheon engagement,  I darted into the Goodwill Store a few doors down. With only twenty minutes, I knew I couldn’t get into too much trouble. I also knew I would have time for only one section, so, I headed over to my first choice, the book section.

A quick glance at the shelves indicated some fine books had been brought in since my last visit. Paperbacks and novels, some newer editions, some with the distinctive covers of older issues, all in good condition.

There, with its neat little spine facing me, was the title, Men of Concord and one surname, Thoreau. As I ever-so-gently slid it off of the shelf, the wonderful cover greeted me. The words upon its pages taken from the journal of Henry David Thoreau. The magnificent illustrations from an admirer of Thoreau. N. C. Wyeth.

You may remember my telling of our autumn sojourn a few years ago to Massachusetts and Walden Pond, which I wrote about here. It was a wonderful trip, made even more so by an afternoon lunch on Walden Pond and a walk through the woods that Thoreau wrote so famously about in Walden.

You may also remember my appreciation for the artwork of N. C. Wyeth, especially in his illustrations of a favorite childhood book, The Yearling, which I wrote about here.

To find the words from Thoreau’s journals so evocatively illustrated by N. C. Wyeth was a blissful encounter indeed.

Walking out of the store, I felt good at how little trouble I did get into, hugging my book, in pristine condition, at a whopping price of $1.95!

I thought I did pretty well for myself in such a short time.

Plates from the front of the book. Please click the pictures for a better look, especially the cover above.

Thoreau and Miss Emerson

Bronson Alcott at the Granary Cemetery in Boston

Four boys and a horse.

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Just sitting here. Enjoying the quiet. Reflecting.

A few years ago, we spent a day on Walden Pond. It was a clear and crisp autumn day and one I will always remember. We arrived early, having heard that while there was plenty of room around Walden, the parking lot was small. Intentionally small, I think, to control the number of people visiting Walden Pond. We came with sandwiches and such from a deli in Concord and sat on steps, eating, watching a few canoeists, swimmers braving the chilly water, an elderly couple sitting in camp chairs reading, an artist sketching  . . .  people, living on purpose.

From the moment I first read Thoreau’s Walden in American Literature class in high school, I wanted to see Walden Pond. I always knew I would love it just not how much I would. Have you ever had that experience? Thoreau’s quote says it best:

If one advances confidently in the direction of one’s dreams, and endeavors to live the life which one has imagined, one will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

Did you know that Frederick Tudor, The Ice King, devised a way to harvest ice and became a very wealthy man? Ice was taken from Walden Pond to use aboard ships to keep food cold on the journey to the tropics. Frederick Tudor was the great grandfather of Tasha Tudor, an illustrator whose books and gardens and life I so admire.

Do you remember the scene in the Winona Ryder film version of Little Women where Jo and Laurie go ice skating and Amy falls through the ice in the pond? That was a depiction of Walden Pond. Orchard House, where Alcott wrote Little Women, is within walking distance from the pond.

The Alcotts were friends of Thoreau and there is speculation that Louisa May had at least a girlhood crush on him. They, along with Emerson and Hawthorne and others, are all buried in the same cemetery, near each other, in a section noted for the number of writers buried there.

Ah, but my thoughts wander today, like the path at Walden, when I meant to wax poetic and dream awhile of advancing confidently toward my dreams.

 

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