October 20, 2014

Walden Circumambulation - Autumnal Moments

Chasing autumn's splendor, I embark on a morning walk around Walden Pond, the iconic, deep watering hole for the soul, that I choose to avoid in the warmest months.  Thanks to Thoreau's musings, millions come here on pilgrimage to circumambulate this 100' deep kettlehole pond hoping to touch a wilder side of themselves or to find their own moments of insight and meaning along its shore.  But for me it is neighborhood and part of the natural and cultural fabric that defines my community, its history, and my small place in that continuum.

As I walk along the shore, I overhear two teachers on the nearby trail reflecting on Thoreau, above the chatter of a long line of high school students behind them, "He made such a point of his living the self-sufficient life out here, yet he still took his clothes home to be washed...what an imposter!"  (I hide my smile and the urge to comment.)  Despite this momentary disillusionment, the throng continues on their dutiful rounds to visit the cabin site and take a group photo against the backdrop of the pond.  Still, every time I come here I wonder about visitors' expectations and the impressions they take away. 

To be in the moment at Walden (or in any wild place), receptive to its offerings, requires some practice, or a practice.  Its landscape does not offer singularly awe-inspiring vantage points.  It is often crowded with visitors, with hoped for silences broken by chatter, traffic sounds, and the scheduled clamor of passing trains.  Indeed many photographers, including Annie Liebovitz, have lamented that it's vistas lack inspiring focal points or ready compositions in its natural features.  But this humble visage is also its gift, requiring us to focus and delve deeper for its inspirations.

And so, as I approach Walden's shore today - with the sun already high, the breeze stiffening, and the silence and solitude waning as visitors multiply - I take a few deep breaths, let go of expectation, note all of the liveliness around the pond, and surrender to the inspirations of light, patterns, color, and intersecting time as I walk.

I come away with images of moments that reveal Walden to be the sum of its facets and their interplay at any given point in time.

Walden's legendary clarity is both message and metaphor for the seeker.

Warm reflections in Thoreau's Cove, where ice first melts in the spring, flanked by Wyman's Meadow, parched by the late summer drought.

Returning to my starting point near the esker trail, autumn light dapples the rolling terrain, a characteristic image in Walden's autumn woodlands.