My last visit to Walden was just over a week ago. The sun had gone behind clouds but the air was still warm when I stood behind the trunk of my car and shed my neoprene letting it fall, lifeless as a snake’s skin, on the asphalt. The bathroom, a small shed housing the Clivus composting toilet stood, a single eye blinked closed amongst the flattened and torn up earth, edging the car park and the rubble of the rangers quarters beyond. For that last week it stood shut, awaiting its fate at the nose of the bull dozer, whilst we swimmers shed our skins under the towering watch of the trees which had escaped the saw and mill.
I hardly want to see it now for I know the small green shed will be gone too, the familiar steps I trod so many times around the garden, along the cement path and into the tiled bathroom, cold from late fall swims and eager to warm my weak and stiff fingers under the hand dryer. I imagine the green brown tinged tiles are now mosaic patterns in the dark earth or crumbled amongst the splintered rubble of the bench I have so many times thrown my towel and clothes on. How is it that these structures which once seemed so permanent suddenly are no longer? Now instead only a distant memory.
It will be ten months before the new visitors center will be complete. new visitors center at walden pond The 2016 season will come and go before visitors to Walden will leave their footprints on floor hewn from the wood of trees I witnessed crashing down over six months ago. For ten months to come visitors to Walden will skirt a cluster of port a-johns, gathered as if queing near the replica of Thoreau’s house, on their way to the pond.
It is not only the end of the season, it is the end of an era in Walden’s history. (The Commonwealth of Mass acquired the property surrounding Walden Pond in 1922, Walden Pond: history so the old visitors center might well have been over sixty years old) There is a yawning gap until the next begins.
But for me, it is magnified by my eyes gazing over the distant water as I walk down the ramp to the pond path and along Walden’s shores. Nothing is like being in her. Being held by her rhythm and her rocking, as if she is my mother and I am cradled to rest inside her arms. No pool, no prayer, no embrace can replace what she, in her generosity has given. I only know now what she was, and what she will be again.
For that is the beauty in nature, the coming and the going of time and season, the gratitude and the grace and the hope. That which we all have the capacity to hold within our patient selves.