Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Drapery of my Dreams

July 7 - 10, 2010

That woodland vision for a long time made the drapery of my dreams.
(HDT’s Journal, August, 1845,describing his first views of Walden as a child)

The rest of my stay in Concord was just as eventful as that first day, and full of marvelous things. -- On the hottest day of the year,

an excursion on the Assabet River with the ever-adventurous Corky

and two friends from Boston, Martha and Nancy, who brought the provisions for a fabulous floating lunch.

We dipped our paddles into three rivers that day, for they all meet at Egg Rock.

It was a day of Leaning Hemlocks, hen-hawks, and damselflies quite literally hooking-up.

--There were meltdowns, of the body and the heart.
A riot with only two participants.
Tears and laughter.

What does it mean, to be a friend?

-- A ramble to Thoreau’s House Site, led by J. Walter Brain,

who quietly overflows with knowledge and love of the Walden Woods.

-- Morning walks with Concord naturalist Peter Alden, seeker of the early-bird.

One to a swamp, where dozens of nests were occupied by squawking young blue herons.

One to Great Meadows, where lotus flowers bowed to the rising Sun.

And prickly caterpillars munched on beautiful invasives.

 -- Heard some fascinating talks about Thoreau and his times during the Annual Conference.
Many Friends of Thoreau sat sweltering together in the tiny Hall in the middle of the Village. 

 -- On Friday, I chose instead to swelter in the woods, and headed out to Fair Haven.
To wander alone on paths new to me
following secret brooks, to stumble upon a lost pond

 Where I saw emeralds

and pearls

To finally reach Fair Haven, that inland sea.

Thoreau spent many an hour here. There was no sight more fair, said he, than Fair Haven. The hillsides were much more open then.
Those were days when a tree was valued more for its BTUs than its beauty.

Now, this area is protected, and heavily-wooded,
and yes, I got lost AGAIN this year, among the many-branched trails that thread through the forest on top of the Hill.

A thrush flew ahead of me from tree to tree, and showed me the way back to Walden.

 -- One last morning in Concord.
A visit to Sleepy Hollow cemetery, to add flowers to the other gifts left at Thoreau’s grave.

--Thoughts of the long ride Home. Where, indeed, is Home?
What are the fruits of travel?

In all the walks and talks and wanderings, I kept circling back to Walden Pond.
It has a magnetism beyond the mere refreshment of water.

Looking back on this week, I learned that despite the many pressures
and modern indignities heaped upon Walden Pond

it bears up remarkably well. Thoreau noted this way back in the 1850s – even then, there were shadows on the horizon.
He also noticed that something else happens there. Something very magical.

From Walden:
Nevertheless, of all the characters I have known,
perhaps Walden wears best, and best preserves its purity.
Many men have been likened to it, but few deserve that honor.

Though the woodchoppers have laid bare first this shore
and then that,

and the Irish have built their sties by it,
and the railroad has infringed on its border,
and the ice-men have skimmed it once,
it is itself unchanged,
the same water which my youthful eyes fell on;
all the change is in me.

It has not acquired one permanent wrinkle after all its ripples.
It is perennially young,
and I may stand and see a swallow dip apparently to pick an insect from its surface
as of yore.

It struck me again tonight,
as if I had not seen it almost daily for more than twenty years —
Why, here is Walden,
the same woodland lake that I discovered so many years ago;
where a forest was cut down last winter,
another is springing up by its shore as lustily as ever;

the same thought is welling up to its surface that was then;
it is the same liquid joy and happiness to itself and its Maker,
ay, and it may be to me.