I love Walden Pond. I’ve been there a few times now, and this last visit I even swam in it. The pond was what I have deemed “crispy cold.” But the water was so clear, so beautiful and inviting. I have learned to love the feel of swimming in fresh water—there is a softness about it that is missing in swimming pools and oceans. But Walden is so clean because it’s been protected, thanks to Henry David Thoreau, who built his famous little cabin right by it.
What I also love about visiting Walden, though, is that the images in our heads about what it must have been like in Thoreau’s day are really not true. I don’t know about you, but I always pictured Walden as it is now—wooded, remote, and pristine. In fact, one learns when one visits and tours that, when Thoreau lived there, all the trees had been cut down for fuel and construction. There is a trail that goes around the pond to the site of the cabin, and the second thing you notice is that it’s right by the railroad tracks! (They were already there in Thoreau’s time). But the first thing you notice is a pile of rocks. When you read the sign, you realize that these are stones brought by people from around the world to honor Thoreau and what he represented—living the simple life.
But again, “simple” may not always be what it seems. As I was walking down to the pond I overheard a woman telling her guest that Thoreau walked 2 miles home for lunch with his mother every day…which is probably why his little one room cabin didn’t have a kitchen in it! Ahhh, the simple life which we all long for—which is like going back to childhood where all good things are provided for by Mom.
Without Thoreau, Walden might not have been protected. The trees might not have grown back and the water might not have become so clean. But without his mother, Thoreau probably would have starved.