Posts Tagged ‘walden pond’

In the summer, I stayed away. It gets very crowded at Walden Pond, a state park popular with swimmers, and since March I’ve been worried about picking up coronavirus in a crowd.

But on a cloudy weekday morning in fall, I thought I’d give it a shot, and I’m so glad I did. It’s lovely, and I was mostly reassured by signs reminding people about masks and social distancing. Moreover, for the pandemic, the path is one-way, counterclockwise around the pond.

It wasn’t quite as empty as my photos make it seem. There were ten or 20 swimmers, gliding quietly with their orange bubbles attached for safety, and a few kayakers, paddeboarders, and fishermen. I even ran into a neighbor who was out for his constitutional.

At the farthest point from the beach house is the railroad track for the train to Boston. I remember visiting with the class when Suzanne was in second grade and studying Henry David Thoreau, and we learned that train whistles would have been a sound Thoreau heard when he lived at his cabin. (But not airplanes, the teacher reminded us.)

I have stuck the photo of Thoreau’s lodging next to the hut-site photo with his famous quotation and the memorial stones, but in fact the cabin is a replica and is located over by the parking lot across Route 126.

I loved the wavy curve of the shore in one shot. Also the woman meditating by the quiet water.

There weren’t any turtles, unless that street sign refers to me. I’m a very slow walker. Fortunately, slow walkers can turn on flashing lights to cross the road and get back to the parking lot safely.

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On an impossibly beautiful summer morning, Kristina and I decided to take a walk around Walden Pond, made famous by 19th century environmentalist and thinker Henry David Thoreau.

When we got to the parking lot, we were surprised to see how many cars were already there at 7:30 — people coming to walk, swim, snorkel, sit on the beach, and just enjoy nature.

Kristina was an ideal guide as she had just been to the pond the week before with other Thoreau fans celebrating his 200th birthday. She also has done a lot of art and writing and diving there over the years and was friends with the man who found the site of Thoreau’s small cabin, Roland Robbins.

On our walk, we noticed temporary signs from an alphabet book about Thoreau written at the Thoreau Farm Writers Retreat. The book is just one of many examples of the ways people make the venerated promoter of civil disobedience their own. Kristina mentioned there is even a Swedish Thoreauvian from Göteborg studying the soil around the cabin site, including the outhouse soil!

Thoreau’s friend Bronson Alcott started the tradition of leaving memorial stones at the site. Today the pile is testimony to the many thousands of visitors who wanted to pay their respects.


























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When you take pretty much the same walk every day, camera in hand, you may have trouble finding new things to photograph. You may look in vain for something different, puzzling, or mysterious.

But there is something to be said for combing the same territory over and over, as scientists are finding from studying the detailed record keeping of Henry David Thoreau.

“ ‘As far as I know, there is more information about the effect of climate change in Concord than any other place in the United States,’ said Richard Primack, a Boston University biologist who calls Concord a living lab for his research. …

Primack, writes Kathleen Burge at the Boston Globe, “has researched how climate change has affected the flowering times of plants, comparing modern data with the information Thoreau collected between 1852 and 1860. Primack and his lab found that for every 1 degree Celsius increase in mean spring temperature, plants bloom about three days earlier. …

“Primack came to his work about a decade ago, when he decided to change the direction of his research. He had been studying the effects of climate change on plants and animals in southeast Asia and decided, instead, to focus on his home state.

“But when he began searching for older records of plant flowering times in the United States, he came up short. Finally, after six months, someone told him about Thoreau’s journals.

“This was kind of a gold mine of data,” Primack said. “As soon as we saw it, we knew it was amazing.” More from the Globe.

Keep an eye open for the upcoming Thoreau exhibit at the Concord Museum April 12 to September 15, described here.

cross over the bridge

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Heard this interview today on the great environmental radio show Living on Earth. Tom Montgomery Fate talks about  trying to “live deliberately” like H.D.  Thoreau and connecting to nature and memories of his father in the woodland cabin he often escapes to. His book is  Cabin Fever: A Suburban Father’s Search for the Wild.

In the elementary school Suzanne attended, all second-graders learn about Thoreau, and as a parent volounteer, I went with her class to the cabin site at Walden Pond. The children had a quiz sheet with questions like, “What sounds would Thoreau have heard in his cabin?” The teacher asks,  “An airplane?” (All the kids say, “No-o-o!”) When the Living on Earth interviewer asked the author about his own retreat being near a noisy highway and a short walk to a pub, I was surprised that he didn’t point out that a Boston-Fitchburg train ran right along the edge of Walden Pond in Thoreau’s day, and that the famous naturalist had an easy walk back home to Concord for a Sunday dinner with his mother. Fate did explain that the Walden mystique was all about a mindset and keeping a balance between what’s important and the often numbing dailiness of modern life.

Asakiyume comments: Living deliberately. Something that’s very important to me about that concept is the notion that you can do it anywhere, in any circumstances. I’ll grant that some circumstances make it really hard: if you’re in a job you hate, or a relationship you hate–basically, if there’s some part of your life that’s putting a huge negative drain on you–I think it’s very hard. But I do think that living deliberately can be done in a suburb, in the country, in a city… not just in the wilderness. I think Thoreau wanted to mark, in actual space, his separation from mundane daily life, and I understand that. But I think it’s the mindset, not the location, that’s important.  

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