On Tuesday the sun split a seam in the afternoon cloud cover to shed her warm September light on the large crowd gathered across the road from Walden Pond. It was there, dressed in better than beach going clothes, in better than hiking clothes, about a hundred people assembled to celebrate the opening of Walden’s New Visitor Center.
Given the design of the Center it was appropriate that the opening be blessed with a break in what had promised to be a cloudy and possibly even wet day. With its ceiling to floor triple-paned glass windows overlooking a large deck and facing the south, the light and warmth flowed into the large auditorium. It is this natural lighting, and the cross ventilation from windows on both sides of the building that sleek armed ceiling fans will use as alternatives to electricity and air-conditioning (on all but the hottest days). But beyond what the building boasts with its design, it is also what lies within that will bring the visiting public closer to understanding the importance of Thoreau’s stewardship of the land.
And it is to this that two-thirds of the display in the auditorium will be dedicated.
Listening to the major speeches at the opening, both Leo Roy, the Commissioner of the DCR and Don Henley the Founder and Chairman of the Walden Woods Project, alluded to the work and wisdom of Henry David Thoreau. Don spoke of not only studying Thoreau’s work in its written form (and I admit, I haven’t read much of) but of experiencing the environment in which he lived and wrote. He spoke of how the interactive displays at the new center will allow visitors to get a fuller experience of Thoreau’s life at Walden from whence they can step outside to come to know it more fully.
After I left the gathering, swimming across the middle of Walden, the pastel blue sky smudged with cotton white cloud reminded me of one of Thoreau’s quotes from the opening ceremony. “Heaven under our feet as well as over our head.”
What could be more this than Walden herself?
In his address, Don Henley asked of the gathering, “Where is your Walden?” He was not only posing this question to the people gathered in front of him, but also posing it as a question that the interactive displays might ask of the thousands of school children that will see it in the years to come, as a means to stimulate their minds to think of the special place(s) in their lives.
As the sun warmed my skin on Tuesday afternoon, as the lazy silence of the water and the woods nurtured me, the road between me and the dissipating crowds receded into a distant murmuring and the peace and tranquility of Walden engulfed me, I stood on the beach:
Walden. You are my Walden. Here. Now. You Are.
And I am grateful.
I’m not sure how you Came to be. Or rather, How I Came to Be.
But I Am.
And I Am Glad.
And the sun laid her gentle hands on me
And stroked my skin with her light.