I was first introduced to Walden by a running friend sometime around 2001. As a new member of the Concord Runners, recently moved to Boston from the Philadelphia area, I remember very clearly the kindness of an older woman who, though I didn’t know it at the time, was in remission from breast cancer. Since then, she, like so many, has succumbed to the disease, which possibly makes this early memory of her kindness to me so much more powerful.
I remember her saying,
‘You have to see Walden Pond.’
‘Oh, ok,’ was my reply.
Nothing in my being had been inspired by the suggestion. I had never heard of Walden Pond. Thoreau was not taught in Australian schools where I was educated. I lived by experience and until I could feel it with my senses, I could not imagine what or how it would be more than any other place or pond.
We set off from Mt Misery and ran to Walden. I remember her laboring up the wooded trails relaying to me the story of how she used to be a dancer but saying, ‘I’m not able to do that any more.‘ I remember thinking what secrets we harbor inside ourselves, never once thinking about cancer, just seeing this thin greying woman with withered skin like the tall slender trees with peeling bark we were passing through, jogging up to the top of Mt Misery. I, jogging behind her.
When we got to Walden Pond we stopped. It was a pond. That was it. Just a pond. We ran around it. I was so keen on running those days I didn’t even think about swimming in it. That came later.