In Search of Solitude at Walden

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Now the water is back I find myself drawn to Walden. Every day I want to be there. Mostly to wander aimlessly through the woods and stare at the pond through tree trunks and stick branches that belie Spring is really here. The water, at forty degrees, is still too cold for me to venture in.

There is a sadness though, for every visit I make…on weekend days or late in the afternoon when the big yellow cats are stilled, or earlier in the day hearing their loud drowning voices I avoid them and head into the woods away from where they work… there are more felled trees, more cyclone fences, more changes. On Tuesday I arrived wanting to use the bathroom. For as many years as I remember, Walden’s bathroom block (not much more than that), has boasted a Clivus Composting system. The small wooden shack which housed it had been closed and the replacement port-a-johns were still being unloaded off a truck and wedged into a far corner of one of the two parking lots which remain accessible. A temporary measure, the young DCR worker assured me, adding he hoped the upheaval would not deter from my love of the place.
His manner was kind and sincere. Transition, change. It is Spring after all.

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These, I know, are the beginnings of a season of changes at Walden. A septic system, the construction of a new visitors center to replace the tiny ranger quarters which currently lends space to the Thoreau Society’s shop and a small gallery where various exhibits relating to the historical significance of Walden can be viewed. Thousands of visitors come to Walden each year primarily for this reason.

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But for me, I find peace and solitude sitting on a fallen tree on the hill overlooking the pond and the distant beach house. Walking briskly away from the signs of change I pass the site of Thoreau’s cottage in the woods, stopping breathless and in awe of the loud ringing of frogs in the marshy area known as Wymans Meadow. Frogs and insects reminding me that winter has truly gone for another year. Birds chirping are a backdrop as I head further into the woods.

It is magic sitting perched up on the hill reading, overlooking all of what drew Thoreau to this place, understanding so little of it, except it draws me too.

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When the summer truly comes and picnickers throng to the beach and I hunger again for solitude, I will retreat even further into Walden, into the middle of the pond and the deep water that awakens my soul and all the memories Walden holds.

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