Sunday, July 25, 2010

Morning in Walden Woods

July 6,
Walden Pond, Massachusetts

had no idea there was so much going on
in Heywood’s Meadow.
HDT Journal, undated 1850

Arrived in Concord late yesterday, and got settled in. Though it was the day after Independence Day, Walden Pond was terribly crowded, due to many people having Monday off from work this year.

The Pond is running five feet higher than usual, since this area received record-breaking rainfall back in the spring. Since the pond has no inlet OR outlet, that water had nowhere to go, and the pond level slowly rose higher and higher. The beach areas on the east side are fairly underwater, which has not stopped people from spreading out blankets and chairs further up along the banks. The state park commission has fenced-off the pondside trail in most places, and has “detour trails” running higher up along the rim of Walden’s bowl. But I saw lots of trail erosion and outright damage as many of the thousands of visitors here this summer have created “shortcuts” of their own.

The state has wisely cut the daily admission numbers in half – to give the pond area some relief from the enormous people-pressure it gets in the summer.

The summer visitors aren’t all Thoreauvians stepping out for a philosophical stroll.
Most are families who live and work in the Boston area, and this is an easy and nearby weekend swimming-place for them. And when the temperature goes up, as it has this week, more and more people come looking for cool relief.

Of course, on my first morning here, the first stop was the Pond.
Hello, Pond. I'm back.

I wanted to take advantage of the early part of the day to go walking out beyond the Pond, see if there were still beavers back at Heywood’s Meadow.

The water level at Heywood’s has changed over the years since Thoreau walked here. Despite it being called a meadow (which seems to be a fast and loose term around here,) there has been water here for a long time. In his journal, Henry mentions changes in the meadow, such as when the Fitchburg railroad was bringing in huge amounts of fill to create the high embankment for their new rail line. On this same line, the commuter train still passes by that side of the meadow several times a day.
Apparently, the train doesn’t deter the beavers, who are still maintaining a fine dam at the outflow of the meadow.

I sat there awhile. There weren’t many mosquitoes today.

Suddenly – the proprietor showed up !

He saw me right away but I stayed as still as possible. (Well, ok, I did take some photos.)

Cautiously he circled around, head up snuffling, trying to ascertain what sort of threat I was.

No tail-splashes this time. Instead he slowly worked his way over to the far side of the Meadow, and out of sight.

Then I followed a trail that runs along one side of Heywood’s swamp and a tall pine woods, in the shadow of Emerson’s Cliff.

At the edge of the water, utricularia (bladderwort) was in blossom.

It was sprinkled in the shallow water like music notes on a sheet of paper.

Unfortunately, this song had a sour note:

Sometimes the really interesting things are not obvious at first glance. Look at the center of this photo carefully.

Yup, it's just a local, a-setting on her stoop, enjoying the morning air.

I returned along the southern side of the Pond. The crowds of the previous day were gone, and the water looked as dreamlike as ever.

Pausing at one of the stone-steps that appear along the rim of the pond, I am drawn to the edge. How can anyone resist feeling this water with their hands - their feet - their skin?

This pond, somehow so pure -- you brush off your feet before putting them in. You clear your thoughts. You end up going in completely -- head under the water -- you offer yourself up.

A few minutes in the pond seems like hours.
Once out of the water, I walked back in soggy shoes, smiling despite the smoosh, urk, smoosh of my footsteps. The morning dew on the clethra leaves was disappearing fast – it was promising to be a hot day ahead.

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