A Walk Along Shore of Thoreau's Walden Pond
A Walk Along Walden Pond's Shores
I first read Henry David Thoreau's Walden in the eighth grade and have probably read it thirty times or more since. Every ten years or so, I find myself walking the shoreline of Walden Pond, not far from Concord, following Thoreau's footpath from an alcove of the pond up to the spot where his cabin stood between 1845 and 1847. He fancied himself following the call of an Indian's life of simplicity. He took notes, extensive notes on tribal cultures of North America at his modest cabin. He called them his "Indian Notebooks."
He also composed at his cabin his first book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1848) as well as early drafts of his more famous second book Walden or Life in the Woods (1854). But he was never too busy writing to explore the natural world around him at Walden Pond. He watched water birds, muskrats and even water insects striding along the surface. He found arrowpoints in the woods and took note of the unfurling of ferns in springtime. Nature remained an important part of his world, but not at the expense of his concern for his fellow man; after all, he did share his cabin briefly with a run-away slave who was on his way to Canadian freedom. His composing the essay "Resistance to Civil Government" (1847) serve as as another case in point for his compassion and concern for his fellow human beings in the difficult times of our territorial war against Mexico and the passage of the "Fugitive Slave Law" by the U.S. Congress during his residence at Walden. And yet the natural world always furnished him with solace and a peace of soul.
As I walked along the shoreline just a few years ago on our way back from Canada, how could I have not noticed shore birds, pagoda-like white pines and the scent of woods full of ferns and flowers. At the same time the shores of peaceful Walden Pond contrasted so much with the wars in the Middle East and the lingering racial bias simmering on the streets of our modern cities not so far away from this pond. But listen, there comes from high in a pine tree the notes of a white-throated sparrow: Ah-tee-tee-tee-tee.
An additional note::
I recently visited Walden Pond just 2 months ago on April 3 through 4, 2014 when I had a reading/signing of my book Desert Rims to Mountains High held at the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods. On the eve of April 3rd, Walden Pond had a dense coat of winter ice from shore to shore. Thoreau notes that the latest he saw ice on Walden Pond in the late 1840s was on April 9th! Certainly the winter of 2014 was an unusually cold interruption to a global warming trend.
Readers should consult Henry Thoreau's Walden, or Life in the woods, especially the chapter "Spring." India's late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's favorite walk in America was around the shores of Walden Pond as Thoreau had a profound influence on Gandhi.