The Warden of Walden

I waved as I drove past the parking machine at the entrance to the pond lot. He was the same guy I saw on New Year Eve, around closing time. When I asked about the office. I wanted to purchase my annual pass for the new year. “Should be open tomorrow at eight am” he replied.

I knew his face. I had seen him often, driving one of the jeep like buggies through the parking lot in mid summer, checking the parking capacity, relaying the information on his “two way” to someone, somewhere…

But the lot was empty today, I was only the third car in all three lots that were cleared. Perhaps more had been earlier… mine had been a spur of the moment decision to come, eager to see what the pond looked like after the winter storm, now that the sun had come out. It was almost four o’clock so it would be gone for the day in another hour or so.

It was pretty now, the blue sky, the pristine snow, fine light powder that you could sweep with a broom instead of shovel. It had fallen gently and softly for hours. But it was the extremely cold temperatures (and the fact it fell continuously for sixteen hours) that caused so much concern. And the wind had picked up during the worst stage of this one, causing the fine snow-dust to swirl like whirlwinds. Some areas left bare of snow while in others it was backed up for over two feet. We had at least a foot ourselves, fourteen inches in Boston. A record for one storm.

I parked and was walking over to the road when he drove down the center of the wide open lot. It felt spacious, so much snow backed up against the wooden rails bordering the woods that separated one lot from another. The lots themselves so empty, devoid of cars. Everything so white, a thin layer of snow still covering the bitumen.

“You know we close at four-thirty?” he called out.

“Yes” I replied. “I don’t intend to be here long. I don’t think I could stand the cold.” It was  9 degrees fahrenheit, with a wind chill of – 8.

“It’s been a long day.”

“Sure. I guess it has.” I nodded, looking around at the cleared snow. “Did you do all this?”

“I started around eleven pm last night.”

“You did it all? It’s a big job. Enormous actually.”

“Yes.”

“Wow, well thank you. I really appreciate it… I was wondering when I turned onto route 126 whether the lot would be open. Thank you so much.” I had not yet even been down to the pond, to see how the snow had been bulldozed and blown to create a path down there. Nor had I ever before really noticed anyway. Until today.

I guess I could have walked off at that, but something more wanted to be said, so I continued. “I couldn’t resist coming to see the pond since the snow, to see what it looked like.” I remembered how I had not been intending to come when I left home, how I was taking my daughter to a piano lesson, and heading up route 2 the way I do to come here, the thought attached itself to me. Was it completely frozen over yet? i wondered. I had thought passingly about the pond while looking out at the snow falling the previous day. I always did think of it. It was a habit, thinking about it when I couldn’t get to it. Strange. I really had no idea why I was so connected. But I couldn’t shake it, the need to know. I continued, though I am not sure why I said what I did. “I love this place.”

He looked out the window of his truck, sort of toward, sort of past me. “I know you do.”

 

 

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