Fourth of July at Walden Pond

My wife and daughters and I went to Walden Pond the morning of July the fourth, 2009, to sit amid the placid woods and swim in the placid water. Other than some overly friendly chipmunks, it was pretty placid.

As the girls splashed and swam, I sat and thought about Thoreau. Part of the idea of Walden Pond State Park is, I believe, to think about Thoreau.

So I did. The book, Walden, is a quirky piece, written in an inimitable style even given its era. It is a handbook of mindfulness, of living in the moment, of observing and drawing conclusions useful to one's own life.

Thoreau sometimes states his conclusions clearly and sometimes leaves it to the reader to make their own conclusion. The anecdote about dinner with a friend in his little cabin, for example, is undoubtedly purposeful, yet the lesson Thoreau intends is not clearly stated, but left for us to infer. On the other hand when Thoreau encounters a large woodchuck in the forest and is almost overcome with a desire to kill it on the spot and eat it raw, the story develops into a persuasive argument for being a vegetarian.

One well-known story that sticks with me is of the French Canadian woodcutter whom Thoreau befriends. The woodcutter goes to work in the morning, works very hard all day, and goes home in the evening. He is always friendly and happy. He loves to eat woodchucks. I think eating woodchucks is kind of a theme in Walden. Although the man is uneducated, Thoreau seems to really envy the woodcutter his simple existence and admire his outlook.

In the story he asks the woodcutter a philosophical question: Does he think the world needs changing? The woodcutter grows pensive and considers for a time before responding, "No, I like it well enough." Not a philosophy to which I subscribe, but one that has its attractions.

Another well known story from Walden is Thoreau's encounter with an Irish family living with their several children in a shack. The husband / father works for a farmer. Thoreau suggests they would be much better off walking over the hills picking blueberries than working for the farmer and living in the shack, but the Irish man cites ambition as the reason he must stay on and work for the farmer, so that he can advance in life. So Thoreau poses an alternative view we must consider, that perhaps are own ambitions are vain, leading to an unhappy life.

After a couple hours of sun the clouds began to gather in preparation for the afternoon's possible thundershowers. My thirteen year old daughter started to shiver, her lips blue. We gathered our camp chairs, blanket and cooler and left Walden Pond to return to our condominium. There the girls engaged in watching DVDs or online videos as we went from store to store to store to buy supplies for our evening cookout.

Makes you wonder.

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Comments 11 comments

Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 7 years ago from Stepping past clutter

Great Hub, Tom! I have never read Walden, but after these comments I might have to catch up on this classic. I loved what you had to say about it all, from the woodchuck to your girls. You are too funny.


Gypsy Willow profile image

Gypsy Willow 7 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

Enjoyed this trip to Walden pond, now I need to visit the book.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

Thanks, Storyteller.  I really enjoyed the book, once I got into the groove of the language.  And as you can tell, parts of it stuck with me. 

Absolutely, Gypsy. Well worth it!


Candie V profile image

Candie V 7 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

Hey Tom!

(on a technical note - take a look at the first paragraph and the "placids"..too many?)

Family time is pricelss! Thank you for sharing your day with us!


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

No, no. I was being deliberately annoying. :0)


Candie V profile image

Candie V 7 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

I feel all placid!! LOL!

Look at you all smiley with your '100' button! At least for right now!


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author


Paris Injeans profile image

Paris Injeans 7 years ago from The Green Hills of Missouri

Your sense of humor is a bit of a treasure in a world that is usually too serious.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States Author

Hi praise, Paris. Thank you.


Christine Roberts 5 years ago

I've been brimming with doubt and pessimism about changing two locks. Having read your clear and wonderful information I'm ready to pounce! Head held high! Also, reading beyond the lock guidance, I'm emboldened to say you are surely a very dear, dear person holding so many good things close.


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 5 years ago from United States Author

I wish you good fortune on your lock changing adventure. Thanks for your lovely comment.

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