Back in Boston, day 5, I wake up still listening for the raucous laughter of kookaburras. Instead I hear the faint chirping of New England, early Spring. So I unearth a CD my father once sent me “A Morning in the Australian Bush,” and have since been traveling down the main road of Lexington, all asphalt and concrete, while I travel home into the bush. My mind following the lilting song and surprising trill of native Australian Birds.
Even now I wander around in a sleepy stupor, yet on my first day back in Boston, in the 78 degree afternoon, I got in my car, at first mistaking the driver’s seat for the passengers, then rehearsing the fact of which side of the road on which to travel, and made off down the road to Walden.
For days it feels weird to be driving on the right and sitting on the left and mistaking the indicator (blinkers) for the windshield (windscreen) wipers. It seems to take so little time to cast be back 23 years…
And Walden seems odd. The dark grey earth, the dried brown leaves crunching under my sneakers. The bare branches, denuded of leaves and color pushing up toward the pale blue sky. Only last week I was walking on scorching white sand of the beach, my thoughts drowned out my the roaring waves of the Pacific. The long tall grasses, roots knitted together, swishing in the breeze.
I wondered about Walden. Would a thin crackling of ice still cover the water? I passed a tiny crusting of dirty snow pushed up against the cyclone fence as I made my way from the car. The weather had been unseasonably warm in Boston since I left for Australia, a sharp contrast to the minus 9 degrees fahrenheit I had experienced the Saturday before I traveled. But I knew the icing habits of the pond were unpredictable.
As I walked past the replica of Thoreau’s hut I passed a woman in a bathing suit, a towel wrapped haphazardly across her middle. Is it that warm already? Secret hopes raced through me.
Crossing the road, I peered intently through the trees. The pond streaked across my view, all blue and liquid and drifting toward the beach. By the time I had walked another few steps I could make out moms and kids and spades dotted in small groups across the sand. Two young girls in bathing suits were paddling at the water’s edge. I watched the first retract her toes and squeal. The air might have been warm and the sun shining but the water still wore the threads of winter through her.
It was bizarre to see so many people, dressed in anything from bikini’s to jeans and long sleeve shirts, sitting, lying, walking, reading, paddling or chatting to each other on the beach. As I walked further I overheard the conversation of a couple of women I recognized. “It’s pretty damn cold,” one was telling the other. “I went in yesterday. It’s 42 degrees,” the other responded. “Mike the Iceman told me. I’m waiting for another 7 degrees. Forty-eight, forty-nine, that’s doable.”
I smiled, continuing to walk, my chin angled down toward the sand. My mouth clamped closed, trapping peace inside me. The raucous cries of boys larking on the water’s edge like a far away calling. But I heard the music of the water tinkling on the rocks. I felt the sun, brilliant in its blink, as I walked along the shore. I felt my breath inside me sink like a stone in the pond.
I had come to Walden because in leaving my homeland I needed to come home. And Walden is home.