I do not plan to go. Too cold, the voice in my head insists. All night I had been listening to the wailing of the wind dragging the sub zero temperatures down into the minus thirties. But if I don’t go today, the voice reminds me, I won’t see Walden for almost a month.
As I make the turn off the freeway I wonder what it is that draws me there. My car temperature gauge registers 9 degrees. I have watched it climb slowly but steadily from -1 when I first left the house this morning. We talk fahrenheit in Boston, not celsius as I will be in a few days, sweltering in the Australian summer sun. I look forward to that!
When I arrive I am surprised to see three or four cars in the parking lot. Somehow I imagined the place would be deserted. A young couple return to their car as I pull in. They do not seem to have more layers on than usual.’Usual ‘means hats, scarves, gloves and a thick coat. They young woman is wearing a jacket, one of the close fitting, hip hugging varieties. If she does not have wool or silk under her jeans they would stand on their own, stiff from the freeze, I think. I know this, having made the mistake myself.
…I marvel at the capacity of some to withstand the cold. Not me.
I zip my long winter coat up to my neck and pull the hood over my woolen beanie. Only my nose and eyes remain uncovered after I have wrap myself in my scarf. Although my woolen glove liners are supposedly ‘technology friendly’, they only oblige on occasions to allow me to take photos. My thinsulate/wool mittens fit nicely over them so the palms of my hands feel cosy for the moment. I won’t be taking many photos today that inner voice informs me.
I know I have come to seek serenity. I know from my spiritual teachings that I must look within, yet it is there that serenity appears in the image of Walden. In my mind it is clear, the wide open space, the absolute stillness, the silence. I wonder if I can take it in and hold it there for the weeks I will not be here, whether that will be possible.
Walden is not the only place where serenity radiates into me from without. The Australian bush does the same, yet its nature is exactly opposite those things that now penetrate the pores of my being. Tall, crooked eucalypts whose branches weave and tangle like yarn above the dirt dry sandstone ground. Nobbly trails winding their way among the undergrowth. Birdsong as vibrant and varied as ever I have heard. Sky as blue as turquoise.
I look up into the sky, its cold silver sun gleaming down on me . The same sun, the same sky I will be standing under in swim suit and shorts in a few days. I marvel at the starkness of the world I inhabit, its deep contrasts, seen and felt, and pull my glove off so I can take a photo.