Living Deliberately at Walden Pond
Yesterday, I visited Walden Pond. The sun was out, but it was still November and cold, cold, cold, cold. The type of day that makes you realize why New Englanders tend to be a little harder than those of us from California.
But I welcomed the freezing wind because it drove the crowds away. I had the chance to experience Walden Pond the way Henry David Thoreau may have experienced it almost 170 years ago — in relative solitude. The only sounds I heard were my boots crunching along the icy path and the gentle waves on the rocks. Ducks floated lazily in the water. Small icicles dripped from the branches and leaves on the shore. I had the contrasting feeling of being all alone and being completely surrounded by nature.
Thoreau lived at Walden Pond from July 1845 to September 1847. He described his decision to separate himself from society in his book Walden:
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”
During his stay, he kept a journal that described everything he witnessed and learned from nature. His experience inspired Walden, which is credited with helping to inspire awareness and respect for the natural environment. Through an appreciation of nature, Thoreau expected to find God. Thoreau more than once described himself as a watchman whose “profession is to be always on the alert to find God in nature—to know his lurking places.”
As I walked around the Pond, slowly feeling my toes and fingers numbing, I thought about living deeply and spiritually. I could have skipped my visit to Walden Pond and stayed home, happily snuggled beneath blankets and the heater. I’m sure I could have found a lot on TV I would have enjoyed watching. Or I could have headed into Boston to meet up with friends. Either option would have been fun, but I would not have felt the connection and wholeness I felt walking alone along Walden Pond. I felt like I was experiencing my life and was connected to nature around me.
As Thoreau said, “Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”
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