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.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


July 4 and 5, 2010
On the road

So where does an ardent admirer of Henry David Thoreau go for vacation?

Where many other Thoreauvians go -- to the Annual Gathering in Concord, Massachusetts!

Always held near the time of Thoreau’s birthday (July 12), the Thoreau Society’s yearly gathering attracts people from all over the country-- ay, the world -- who have an interest in some aspect of Thoreau’s life & works. There are scholarly speakers, presentations of all sorts, and walks with naturalists and historians.This is my fourth year attending. Over the years I’ve drifted from attending the talks to going on the walks. (You can do both of course.)

And in the process, I've met some mighty interesting people, and made some new friends from faraway places, whom I cherish throughout the year. I look forward to seeing some of them in Concord this week.

Meanwhile, the week before vacation was downright brutal at work – a crazy and hectic schedule, day after day. By the end of the week, I was tired. I was cranky, and feeling pressured from all sides. I entertained thoughts of just staying home, at my OWN little pond.

“Why travel so far, when it’s all here right at home?”
the little Thoreau on my left shoulder would whisper in my ear.
The one on the right shoulder simply said, “Come walk in my woods in the cool morning.”

So I packed my clothes, put the kayak into the car, and headed South.


It’s only a four-hour trip (according to Google Maps) but I break it up with a stop at my old digs in Vermont, to visit with Rick, who is quite possibly, the best friend I will ever have in this world. It will be good to shoot the breeze with him for a while.
 On the way I pass miles of corn, growing in the green valleys of Vermont.

And almost get sucked up in the Tractor Division of a little Fourth of July parade in Manchester. Whew, that was a close one!

From Vermont, it is a short scenic drive through part of New Hampshire, as my route angles down toward Massachusetts. If I went on the major highways, the whole trip would take about an hour less.

But I like this kind of traffic:

And instead of McDonald’s, I stopped for a picnic lunch in a state park pulloff, along shady Willard Brook.

The water was clear and offered cool comfort to my feet.

The day was growing warm -- but that turned out to be only a hint of what was yet to come.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

An Infinitesimal Point

From Thoreau’s Journal, June 6, 1857:

This is June, the month of grass and leaves…
Already the Aspens are trembling again, and a new summer is offered me.
I feel a little fluttered in my thoughts, as if I might be
too late.

Each season is but an infinitesimal point.
It no sooner comes than it is gone…
We are conversant with only one point of contact
at a time,
from which we receive a prompting and impulse
and instantly pass to a new season or point of contact.
A year is made up of a certain series and number of sensations and thoughts
which have their language in nature.
Now I am ice, now I am sorrel.

This day was special for two reasons:
Firstly, it was the one-year anniversary of this blog. My blogiversary, as some might call it. A time to stop and think. What is a year? A season ? And where do we fit in? And so for today, this quote from Thoreau, who seems to be wondering about the very same thing.

Secondly, it was the long-awaited day of Trailapalooza Two ! The summer edition of a long walk with friends along the Warren County Bike Trail.
This time it was just me and Jackie. We had brought lunches, and were figuring on it taking us all day – no schedule – no hurries. My car was parked at the terminus of the trail in Lake George.
So off we went, on a sort of mega-saunter, seeing what miracles there were along the well-travelled trail.
It had been rainy overnight, and the plants appeared lush and abundant.

Berries were just forming – of course they all got sampled.

After a while, the sun came out – and the tender insects too.

We had a wonderful time, just seeing what was out there. Plants were growing with abandon along this path which has had so much history – battles and railroads and hamlets that came and went. It was a long walk through Time ... and at the end, we see delicate flowers growing over the ruins of an ancient fort...

Dear Jackie,
It was great walking with you today. Thanks for joining me in some of my crazy little ideas this year. That candy I cached along the trail last week (by hanging it in the brook) tasted great, didn’t it?
Thanks too for helping me learn about the green things growing,
and for teaching me things like:


never assume –
when it doubt,  look it up –
and when in doubt, get right down there & look closer.

Thanks also for encouraging me to start a blog.
It has become a most satisfying and creative endeavor.
And yes, thanks for prodding me when those blogs appear less frequently.
Here’s looking forward to more little adventures,
Yr. friend,