Redefining Walden

I don’t think I ever looked closely at a tree until fresh green buds were unfurling last spring. I remember looking up into the sky as I walked slowly along the dirt path bordering the Lexington Battlegreen, my little Shih Tzu dawdling behind me. Perhaps it was just that since Jesi passed I had been looking up more, no longer staring forlornly at my boots praying the infections and complications of her leukemia treatment might end. What ever it was, I suddenly realized how amazing the long fine branches that reached into the heavens were. Then it was the enormous trunks that astounded me. As I walked past them something resonated within me. Ever since I have been fascinated with trees. But when my therapist asked “Why don’t you look at the trees at Walden?” after I told her I didn’t find the trees there captivating, I replied “Because when I’m at Walden my eyes are always drawn toward the water.”

On Wednesday the sky was grey and the air temperature in the mid forties. I was sure I would see someone swimming so when I scanned the water surface, smooth and shiny as metal and saw no black arms circling, I was surprised.

I set off along the pond path to walk but it wasn’t long before I stopped. I had been thinking about Jesi, how one of the last times she visited Walden with me we had walked this very path. Then a kaleidoscope of her visits to Walden merged in my brain. There was the time she bought her camera, a Canon SLR she received for her birthday and while I watched, she took close up photos of plants squeezing out the crevices of rocks, or the texture of tree trunks. I was walking the same stretch of path where she had bent toward over her camera, sliding the lens around its orbit until it was perfectly in focus, before pressing her finger to release the shutter, click. I was only holding my i phone, though recently I have thought about “borrowing” Jesi’s camera. Suddenly I found myself bending a thick scaley tree trunk and tapping the screen, click.

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Suddenly my walk was transformed. I no longer stared through the lattice webbing of branches, wishing my view of the pond was not obscured, I looked at the patterns they printed on the sky instead.

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When I reached the corner of the pond where Thoreau built his cabin, I headed up through the thick bed of leaves and deep into the woods. I probably hadn’t been into Walden Woods since the swimming season had begun in May, definitely not since the leaves had been ushered to their death by the October winds. It was magical to be wading through them, listening to them crackle under my sneakers, to be feeling the stillness of the forest, I the only moving creature in it. I resolved to do this more often, now that I had broken the spell of the water and allowed myself to breathe in the life of the woods.
This is what I saw…

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