by Francis McGovern
The morning was a time that offered much to Henry David Thoreau and Walden Pond seemed a fitting place to celebrate the sun’s arrival.
It was dark on a quiet winter morning and snow lined the side of the road. I began to walk down along the north side of the pond towards Thoreau’s house site. The sky was dark and some snow had melted along the trail. Ice was covering the pond and enough snow remained to give the illusion that the ice was a field. I found a spot beside a solitary pine about half way down that seemed to jut out enough for a good view.
Looking off to my right, I could the see the train tracks that ran by the west side of the pond and as I listened, I could hear the silence softly interrupted by the constant breathing of the highway not more than a mile away.
The sky was getting lighter and part of me half expected to see Thoreau’s ghost as I waited for the sun. One part eager for the meeting but the other frightened and feeling less than worthy. What could I say? Thanks for your writing and the moments of insight it had given me, but I don”t really live quite the way I think I should, or more the way I might like to live.
Just then I heard crows crying overhead. I looked up and saw two flying toward the dawn. They were dark and graceful against the gray white morning. And I thought that in some way we all come to Walden not just to see it, and feel it and breath in the air, but we come to say something, to speak to Thoreau. To say that we understand, and we sympathize.
The clouds were beginning to lighten from a blue black to a white. Slowly I waited and the sky began to flare orange and pink. The sun was partially blocked by the Lincoln hills, but it sent its rays among the clouds and for a moment everything was golden.
I noticed two small juncos bouncing nearby on the ground and thought about why Walden means so much to so many. Thoreau was writing about Nature and man’s relationship to it. But the Natural world, like the sunrise, is something that we take for granted. We forget that things are happening apart from our own everyday realities.
The fact that the sun has risen and set since the beginning of time should place us in perspective. But it doesn’t. Without the sun, without everything working in its proper order, we would simply cease to exist. We must ask ourselves if we ignore the natural world long enough and do enough things to push it out of sync, just enough, will we be destroying what sustains us?
Thoreau was studying the science of existence. What does it mean to be a human being? What does it cost to exist? What is the best way to live, where, how and in what fashion? These were the questions he asked and when we come to Walden Pond to talk to him, to speak our peace, we should listen closely, for we may hear his silent answer amongst our own voices.
Francis McGovern is editor and founder of Literary Traveler
Walden pond State Reservation
Route 126, Concord, MA 01742
Walden on the Web
Follow this link to find out more about Walden Woods, The Thoreau Society and The Thoreau Institute.