Visiting Walden Pond was a surreal experience. The trip granted me one of those rare opportunities to step into the reality of a place I had only ever imagined. I hold the same reverence for the grounds that most reserve for Holy sites in the East. One can sense that something happened on these grounds of significance. It wasn’t a great battlefield or the resting place of a prophet. Instead, the events that unfolded here were intellectual. One man sat along the banks of the water exploring himself and the sacredness of the world he was born into.
There is a narrow path that follows the brim of the pond. At several points along the trail you will find stairs created by flat rocks leading down into the water. They lay like a spiral staircase of flat rocks set into the steep banks. Each time I came upon one of these waypoints I paused. Something about these stairs was haunting to me. I felt as though, if I followed them—if the decent was made—perhaps some renewal might await in the blue depths. The land’s offering of a natural baptism to the traveler—a renewal that needs no overseer or ceremony to give it weight.
Walden is important because it represents the simple man’s journey unto profound realization. Feeling the need to simplify and meditate, Thoreau made deliberate choices so clear for himself a moment in time—those seasons he spent along the banks of Walden.
We all have our Walden; we each have a place willing to cradle us—to protect our quietude, push back the trivialities, and give us a chance to be fully conscious. In this age of streaming information there is no quietness left. The constant din of the media babble and endless menial tasks fill our precious days. No, in this age, we must make quietness; for it does not occur naturally in this world we have constructed.
We each have the ability to follow the example set by Thoreau and countless other unnamed souls throughout history, to make the choice to clear away everything else for a time and explore this world and our place within it. Personally, I find such sojourns necessary. I will not come to the end of my life having never stopped to truly examine the world I am in and the beliefs I hold.
Move off the path—descend—and see what renewal lay in the depths.
On the Far Side of Walden
Ankle-deep in mud
Along the banks of Walden,
I find my footing.
Standing in the ruins of the cabin,
I return home to meet the brother
Born before my time.
We souls close in ideals
But distant in years
Keep council together.
When one of us passes along
The next will pick up the thread
And carry on the thought.
Walking the rim of Walden
The wheel of my life takes a turn.
The waters are a mirror
And the banks a respite.
On the far side of Walden
One can look out across the wide waters
And see the world reflecting.
It is a place in the journey
Where one can take solace,
Pause and look back with clear perspective.
Coming to the end of the path
I am not who I was
At the beginning.
—an excerpt from Fleeting Moments of Fierce Clarity: Journal of a New England Poet