Under Walden’s Sun

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As I sludge my way through the soft slice of afternoon snow glistening in the sunlight, the voice inside my head reminds me of my recent absence. I feel like a newcomer I hear it say. It bellows so loudly I wonder whether the woman passing by, walking in the opposite direction, closer to where the stone wall peaks out from under its white coat, hears it roar. I hide my embarrassment, the rawness I am feeling as I heave each leg, unaccustomed to its heavy boot, out of the foot deep hole it has made and place it down to sink into the next. The memory of walking up the steep bush track on the peninsula above Manly Beach in Sydney flickers into my mind. The burning heat of the southern sun, the climb; I did not pant from exhaustion the way I do now, laboring under my thick winter coat and scarf, my boots rooting me to the gloopy snow.
And below me, the water gently whispers. Advancing toward the lacy border of ice slowly nibbling away at its edge.

I surge onward, around the bend in the shoreline and out of the sun. The soft sludge of snow turns into an icy crust so that my boots break through it as though mapping out a brand new path. I fall, one foot and then the other. Perhaps I think, if I fall far enough, I will fall back into that southern sky

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the crusty covering of ice cracks as if I am mapping out a brand new route with each step

I look over the water. It glistens under the warming March sun, rekindling another memory. That last afternoon on Sydney Harbor. The water that beamed a bridge of light from where I stood on the deck of the Manly Ferry all the way to under the Harbor Bridge. The memory still spans my gut like the arch of that bridge. I stop, the ice crunching under my boot reorients me.

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Water is water. Sun is sun. These forces speak to me no matter which hemisphere I am standing on. Be it an icy beach or a sun bleached bush track.

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From Snow an Ice to Heat Haze

As I drove past Walden during the beginnings of the second of Boston’s winter storms that have hit this past week I slowed my car to take this photo.

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It was Sunday afternoon around 4.15 pm, too early for Walden’s gates to be closed, but the “in” gate had been shut. No one was in sight. No one, except me crawling along the road. I was returning home to Lincoln, where I recently rented an apartment. To where I tell friends I am doing my “Thoreau stint” living closer to nature. I was inching my way along the snowy road.

I couldn’t help thinking about the fact that in just under a week I will be traveling to the other side of the globe to where the earth is burning and the atmosphere is shimmering with heat haze; going home to Australia to see my mum who sweats into the phone telling me it is 43 degrees celsius (over 100 degrees fahrenheit) “and humid. And it has been like this for weeks on and off.”

I wonder how my body will cope? How it will adapt to the dramatic change in temperature. How my eyes will adapt to the change in light and color as I leave this pristine white land and fly into the rich blue skies. As I fly across the harbor, peering down on Sydney from above. The arc of that bridge which spans the ocean, the sails of the Opera House that seem to drift off the shores of Bennelong Point as if to sail under that massive grey bridge. …But for now I keep my eyes on the road, appreciating the long slender limbs of the trees, dressed in their robes of snow and the soft white flakes falling on the windshield.

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Dear Readers … I will be away for a few weeks, so while I won’t be around to post pictures of pristine snow at Walden …I am happy to share a few of (hopefully) blue sky and beaches in Sydney and environs.

I hope you’ll keep reading and watching for my return in mid March when I’ll be back at Walden drinking in the wonders of her tranquil atmosphere and scenery.

With Gratitude and Sincerity

Liz

An Uncommon Visit.

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It’s February and all of twenty degrees. And if you take into account the wind chill considerably below that. There is a fresh, almost foot of snow, hardly trodden, hiding the beach and yet still there is a corridor of water on the southern side of the pond. It follows the shoreline and dissects the flat expanse of space which I always think resembles a playing field, between the woods on the north and the woods on the south, with a zig zag of rapidly moving water butted against ice, caked in snow, frozen in place.

Yet who knows whether it will last. Or when it will run again.

I stand on the what I know to be beach, shin deep in snow, marveling at how bizarre this scene is. The water, the bitter wind freezing my fingers which, unprotected tap my phone to record images.

Years ago, when I first came to Boston I would drive to the ocean during the winter just to see water, to watch the waves crash upon the beach. The ebb and flow of the tide; so foreign was the concept of frozen ponds. Something inside me felt out of place and I could put it right if I saw water, if I heard the voice of the waves. So I would go to the ocean.
Now as I stand looking at Walden, half ice, half water, snow skirting her shores and decorating the forest beyond, it is the water which seems odd.

I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

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Walden Wanderings

 

When I look back at the photos I took at Walden earlier this week, I sense how wild she has become. Perhaps it was the shadow as I set off along the southern shore. Perhaps it was my mind, superimposing my thoughts onto what I saw as I walked around the pond, wrapping my coat tight around me to shelter from the bitter winter wind. Thinking about how it seemed that the lack of sufficient snow and ice had left her deserted.

There were no fishermen. Too cold for the regular season’s fishing from small boats or fishermen standing thigh deep in wadders or on the beach. Insufficient ice for the ice fishermen. There were no skaters carving patterns in the ice for there was scarcely any ice, and that which there was, only a thin crust, so fragile it fell away under the toe of my shoe when I touched it. There were no ski trails or snowshoe tracks around the pond, though on Thursday when I walked there was still a smear of snow spread around the most of the shoreline. And even though the pond herself was carved into sections of ice and water, as though lanes of a swimming pool and the sun was out while I was walking, there were no hardy souls venturing into the water.

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Only a handful of others, walking along the shore or the path that skirted it, talking, taking photos or gazing into the distance.

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“Throwing Stones” in Walden

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In November she walked around the pond as the wind ebbed and flowed inside its banks. She threw stones into it. She listened for the sounds they made as they fell from the air, diving into the cool clear water below. She listened to the sounds of the waves whispering as they crept onto the sand. She listened to the sound of the wind whirling through the branches of trees. She listened to the sounds of her breath and of the sand as it shifted under her shoes as she walked around the pond.

In December, she took those memories of Walden into the class room, intertwining them with the emotions Walden evoked for her. Creating music from her memories.

In January, she returned to Walden walking along the sand, grinding the grit of it into the soles of her shoes, sheltering from the bite of the breeze that blew across the water which refused to freeze. She chatted with me walking beside her as we wandered along the northern bank of the pond. We discussed a winter with temperatures where winter’s snow and ice were not sustained, where they came and went like visiting white birds.

“I want a photo of you,” I told her. “In your blue jacket with the blue water and the sky which has turned from grey …to look how pretty the sky is and those clouds…” I rambled on. Suddenly I snapped a shot of the far shore with the sky and clouds as the subject while Kari walked a few feet in front, turned back toward me and smiled.

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“I want to share your music because you have expressed a part of Walden in your music that I have not experienced. …Perhaps others might like to experience it too… To see what you can do where you take nature into the class room and use your imagination; coupled with synthesizers and filters and other techniques you are learning about,” I told her. “May I share it?” I asked.
“Mama,” she said. “I would be honored.”

****Kari is currently a first year Classical Composition student at Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio.

Marching Forward on Thin Ice In and Out of Walden

January 20: A damp grey afternoon. I am at Walden. I need time to contemplate and nature provides it for me. I have escaped the frayed commentary of politics and society to a vision of land and sky and ‘sea’. I do not plan my visit, though deep in my subconscious I have known I will be at Walden today.

Even before I reach the beach I meet a friend. We walk together along the sand. The water is grey. The ice, only just, insipid with its attempt to cling to existence in the unusually warm January days, appears fragile. The sky is uniform grey. Unexceptional on this exceptional day.
“I want see something beautiful,” I tell my friend almost before we have set off for our walk.

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Before long we see a girl walking a dog along the beach and decide to alert her to the fact that dogs are not allowed at Walden. The dog is playful and I greet him with my hand extended for him to sniff. His long barrel body wags to the rhythm of his tail. He starts digging in the sand as we exchange greetings and inform his walker of the “No Pets” rule. “Perhaps you might walk him in the woods,” my friend suggests. She seems not to hear, or not to heed his warning for when she sets off she continues along the beach, the dog waving his tail happily as he disappears into the distance. Perhaps the lack of visitors or the bleak grey cold is keeping the rangers off the beach today. Perhaps they are preoccupied with other pursuits.

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We continue our walk. My friend tells me about falling through the ice: How one does not feel the cold initially. How one’s clothes, trapping pockets of air inside its layers, help keep one afloat. I learn how to successfully climb back up on the ice. (I have always wondered about this, knowing the sharpness of ice and thinking how difficult it might be to climb onto a ‘shelf’.)
“It’s exactly what I didn’t do,” my friend tells me. He explains how the ice one has already walked on is ‘safe’ and that which is in front, that one instinctively wants to clammer up onto, is not. “So the way to get out of the water is to turn around and climb back onto the ice you have just walked over” he explains. I imagine myself in this situation, turning my back on the way forward and consciously choosing to go back. The last thing I would want to do in the circumstance.

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The following day I am reminded again of the conversation with my friend. I am standing amongst 175,000 people on the Boston Common at the Women’s March when I see this.

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Now I understand why I felt like I did about the ice.

 

Skiing and Swimming Walden Style

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A week ago Walden was covered in snow and ice. I had a wonderful Sunday afternoon cross country skiing with a friend through Walden Woods. We stopped to take photos of the sun sparkling through the trees or to discuss which of the myriad of criss crossing tracks we should follow. And at the end of our outing, following the ridge on the southern shore of the pond back to the main road, I looked out over the pond, which had been water until three days before.
“It usually freezes over by the end of the first week of January,” I remarked, remember all the years I had been coming to Walden, and the year, thirteen years ago, when I had been swimming until the ice took the water away.

But by the time I visited Walden again on Friday, the ice was all but gone.
When I walked down onto the sand I bumped into a swimming buddy who had just finished his icy dip! Mike had walked around to Red Cross Beach so he could avoid the wind, swum across the pond to avoid the ice. “It can cut you up pretty bad,” we exchanged thoughts on the matter. “And you can’t see it when you are swimming either.” I added, (having had the misfortune to have collided more than once with the sharp edge of the ice back in 2004). Mike had swum back to the beach on the other side of a large segment of ice that divided the pond in two parts.
I was impressed. Mike wasn’t “blue” and he was making complete sense. Even in November I would sometimes get so cold I couldn’t “get my mouth around my words” properly.

This morning, Sunday, I went back to Walden again. It was a chilly walk, especially along the shaded shore. When I was finishing my walk I found an unoccupied chair and swimming gear on the wall, the gathering place for all the swimmers in season. A small crowd had gathered at the far end of Red Cross Beach. Instantly I knew why. I strained my eyes and sure enough, a tiny black head in the water, watching where he was going arms rotating. It had to be Mike. And he had an audience.

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