Testing the Waters of Walden

As I wander through the trees listening to the spring birds singing, watching the buds finally unfold their wings into the grey of this morning… as I wrap my jacket around me, cosy my neck under my scarf and lower my gaze to see the seeds inch through the moist earth, I think back a few days to Sunday…The sunshine and warmth that filled the air with the hope of summer…   And I remember…

I had spent the morning trying to convince myself that a dip to “test the water” would not do too much damage to my fragile neurological system. I had been suffering from migraine headaches which, since the flu had struck almost a month before had consumed most of my conscious thought…. So much so that last week I actually decided focusing on them, albeit to try to assess the triggers and so avoid them, was becoming unhealthy in itself. Perhaps if I ignored them they would leave me alone.
But they continued to return when I woke each morning; if only as a sense of tightening in my brow, or a slight twinge over one temple, soon to expand their territory to consume my whole forehead or creep from the base of my skull like bony fingers under my scalp, sending a current of electrical energy at random or giving me the sensation of the butt of a gun slowly turning over and over inside my head…
But since one of my “go to” treatments to relieve the pain is an ice pack, perhaps with the Easter Sunday temperatures in the 80’s, a dunk in the pond might help…

So I happened along toward the parking lot of Walden just after 2.30pm and was dismayed to find it closed until 4pm due to the parking having reached capacity.
I wondered if when I returned at 4, would I stand fast to my plan, and dunk myself into the water? And what my head would think of it?

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I arrived at the gate a few minutes before 4pm, one of the first cars to be let through. The sky had clouded and although I had been hoping for the return of the sun it seemed the wind was getting fiercer and the clouds disguising the sun even further. I walked down the ramp toward the water. The temperature noticeably dropped a few degrees.
No one was swimming on the main beach. There were a few kids wadding in the shallows and a handful of adults lying on the sand in bikinis.
I took to the wooded path heading for Sandy Point, still wrestling with the idea of plunging in. The wind was gusting so strongly it pushed me along. I wished I’d bought my sweatshirt. Habit, or the reluctance to leave now that I had gotten this far, kept me walking forward.

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By the time I reached Sandy Point the sun had returned. An older man was stripping down to his bathers, also deliberating about going for a plunge. I felt courage rouse within me. I slipped my shorts down over my hips and pulled my t shirt over my head. The sun’s warmth caressed my bare skin. Following my fellow bather’s lead I made my way down to the water’s edge and gingerly placed one foot and then the other in, so only my feet were under water. It was devilishly cold.
Next time I tried I got in as far as my shins. I stood there, trying not to focus on the burning cold of my lower legs, the searing pain in my feet until it became to much and I scurried back to dry land, trying not to injure my numbing feet on the stones as I hobbled over them. The next time I got in as far as my knees. And perhaps my exit was a tiny bit more graceful. Then, determined I was going to make it, I got right out of the water, stood breathing deeply for a few moments taking my time while watching the distant shoreline, a canoe passing by, the fishermen engrossed in waiting for a tug on their lines, groups of Sunday strollers wandering along the sand, a lean young man laying out a yoga mat and beginning sun salutations. Then, acting before I thought too deeply about it, I boldly walked into the water raised my arms together and splash! In I went.

What I remember next was curious. Certainly the cold. But some sort of memory of being immersed in cold water kicked in. I ignored the shock of it all. I almost rejoiced in the familiarity of it …for a moment anyway… I glided for a few strokes, flipped over to my back and stroked parallel to the shoreline. The back of my neck soothed, rejoicing as the cold water caressed it, cooling my frazzled nervous system. Then as my brain caught up with my memory it registered my general state of cold. I turned onto my stomach and toward the shore and hastily made for the shallow water. When I pulled myself up to stand my body was so cold it was on fire. My skin was burning. I looked down at my arms expecting to see them glowing like red embers but they were their same pale brown. I felt amazing. So amazing I repeated my plunge not once, but twice that summery Sunday afternoon.

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Now wandering among the trees with my jacket tight around me to keep out to cold morning air, I wonder when another day like Sunday will come my way. I wonder about the new treatment I have found to gain relief from migraine pain too…

Spring at Walden

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Spring launched today and Walden vibrated with her energy as a relaxed crowd of visitors sprawled along the sand, strung like beads around the perimeter of the pond. With them they bought volleyballs, soccer balls, ping pong, frisbees, fishing rods, bikes or just their sneakers, jettisoned so bare feet could test the water, still too cold for swimmers…

Yet when I left the main beach and meandered around to the far side of the pond, the crowd and carnival atmosphere thinned. It was replaced instead by the silent endeavor of a figure clad in black, deftly stepping in the ankle deep water of Ice Fort Cove. He was looking for stones to build his cairns.
I stopped to talk to the young man and learnt that apart from needing a stone with three points on which it could balance, the main skills required were patience and perseverance. “And perhaps a steady hand,” I added.

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I was surprised when the young man told me without any animosity that often the cairns he built were knocked over purposely, “because you wouldn’t want one of those rocks to land on your foot, would you…” he explained. I wondered why I would be a target for one landing on me if I was minding my own business and just walking by, but that was not the point.
What I was really astonished by was what I thought to be the Buddhist attitude of this young man.
After taking all this time and effort to build these structures, he seemed perfectly fine with the notion that they would be destroyed.
Thanking him for his time I continued on my walk deciding there was more than patience, perseverance and a steady hand to the building of cairns. The secret lay centered inside the psyche of the builder himself.

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This Waiting…

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There is the silence of the sand, the dappled molds, each its own desert dune, extending from the stone steps and as I sweep my eyes along the beach, filling the emptiness of it; waiting.
There is the water, grey and pooled in patient puddles or licking at the curl in the shoreline, the slight line of froth it leaves behind, a child’s milk mustache.
There is the whispering voice of the wave on the sand; when…it chants, when. It waits also.
There is the sky. The blue has faded from the afternoon. It is late March, officially Spring, April a day or so away yet the pallor of the sky belies this. She gives no hint of what might come. She stretches over forest, over sand, over water, over the group of three young women who saunter across the sand on the other side of the pond, chatting happily. She resides over the two teenagers who, sneakers thrown haphazardly on the sand, jean legs rolled two or three inches above the ankles, gingerly tiptoe toward the water. I watch from a distance, leaning on the cold hard stone of the wall. The first retracts a toe almost immediately it touches the water. The head turns toward the friend who lingers behind. Perhaps words are exchanged. I am too far away to know. The toe once more approaches the water and this times the foot enters it. I watch the weight shift onto the leg and the body move forward. I watch the second foot just as tentatively enter the water, slowly, completely, the figure moving forward. I distract myself. How long? I wonder. How long?

This waiting. The sand that yearns for buckets and spades and towels and umbrellas. The water, for bodies to slice through it, skim its surface leaving trails of white foam. The sky which tries to spread blue light and beam the yellow warmth of the sun. When will it return?
April? May? June? …

This waiting. My sneakers tied tight, my socks, thick and warm. Wrapped in my winter coat and scarf. This waiting. …How long?

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Under Walden’s Sun

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As I sludge my way through the soft slice of afternoon snow glistening in the sunlight, the voice inside my head reminds me of my recent absence. I feel like a newcomer I hear it say. It bellows so loudly I wonder whether the woman passing by, walking in the opposite direction, closer to where the stone wall peaks out from under its white coat, hears it roar. I hide my embarrassment, the rawness I am feeling as I heave each leg, unaccustomed to its heavy boot, out of the foot deep hole it has made and place it down to sink into the next. The memory of walking up the steep bush track on the peninsula above Manly Beach in Sydney flickers into my mind. The burning heat of the southern sun, the climb; I did not pant from exhaustion the way I do now, laboring under my thick winter coat and scarf, my boots rooting me to the gloopy snow.
And below me, the water gently whispers. Advancing toward the lacy border of ice slowly nibbling away at its edge.

I surge onward, around the bend in the shoreline and out of the sun. The soft sludge of snow turns into an icy crust so that my boots break through it as though mapping out a brand new path. I fall, one foot and then the other. Perhaps I think, if I fall far enough, I will fall back into that southern sky

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the crusty covering of ice cracks as if I am mapping out a brand new route with each step

I look over the water. It glistens under the warming March sun, rekindling another memory. That last afternoon on Sydney Harbor. The water that beamed a bridge of light from where I stood on the deck of the Manly Ferry all the way to under the Harbor Bridge. The memory still spans my gut like the arch of that bridge. I stop, the ice crunching under my boot reorients me.

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Water is water. Sun is sun. These forces speak to me no matter which hemisphere I am standing on. Be it an icy beach or a sun bleached bush track.

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From Snow an Ice to Heat Haze

As I drove past Walden during the beginnings of the second of Boston’s winter storms that have hit this past week I slowed my car to take this photo.

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It was Sunday afternoon around 4.15 pm, too early for Walden’s gates to be closed, but the “in” gate had been shut. No one was in sight. No one, except me crawling along the road. I was returning home to Lincoln, where I recently rented an apartment. To where I tell friends I am doing my “Thoreau stint” living closer to nature. I was inching my way along the snowy road.

I couldn’t help thinking about the fact that in just under a week I will be traveling to the other side of the globe to where the earth is burning and the atmosphere is shimmering with heat haze; going home to Australia to see my mum who sweats into the phone telling me it is 43 degrees celsius (over 100 degrees fahrenheit) “and humid. And it has been like this for weeks on and off.”

I wonder how my body will cope? How it will adapt to the dramatic change in temperature. How my eyes will adapt to the change in light and color as I leave this pristine white land and fly into the rich blue skies. As I fly across the harbor, peering down on Sydney from above. The arc of that bridge which spans the ocean, the sails of the Opera House that seem to drift off the shores of Bennelong Point as if to sail under that massive grey bridge. …But for now I keep my eyes on the road, appreciating the long slender limbs of the trees, dressed in their robes of snow and the soft white flakes falling on the windshield.

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Dear Readers … I will be away for a few weeks, so while I won’t be around to post pictures of pristine snow at Walden …I am happy to share a few of (hopefully) blue sky and beaches in Sydney and environs.

I hope you’ll keep reading and watching for my return in mid March when I’ll be back at Walden drinking in the wonders of her tranquil atmosphere and scenery.

With Gratitude and Sincerity

Liz

An Uncommon Visit.

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It’s February and all of twenty degrees. And if you take into account the wind chill considerably below that. There is a fresh, almost foot of snow, hardly trodden, hiding the beach and yet still there is a corridor of water on the southern side of the pond. It follows the shoreline and dissects the flat expanse of space which I always think resembles a playing field, between the woods on the north and the woods on the south, with a zig zag of rapidly moving water butted against ice, caked in snow, frozen in place.

Yet who knows whether it will last. Or when it will run again.

I stand on the what I know to be beach, shin deep in snow, marveling at how bizarre this scene is. The water, the bitter wind freezing my fingers which, unprotected tap my phone to record images.

Years ago, when I first came to Boston I would drive to the ocean during the winter just to see water, to watch the waves crash upon the beach. The ebb and flow of the tide; so foreign was the concept of frozen ponds. Something inside me felt out of place and I could put it right if I saw water, if I heard the voice of the waves. So I would go to the ocean.
Now as I stand looking at Walden, half ice, half water, snow skirting her shores and decorating the forest beyond, it is the water which seems odd.

I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

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Walden Wanderings

 

When I look back at the photos I took at Walden earlier this week, I sense how wild she has become. Perhaps it was the shadow as I set off along the southern shore. Perhaps it was my mind, superimposing my thoughts onto what I saw as I walked around the pond, wrapping my coat tight around me to shelter from the bitter winter wind. Thinking about how it seemed that the lack of sufficient snow and ice had left her deserted.

There were no fishermen. Too cold for the regular season’s fishing from small boats or fishermen standing thigh deep in wadders or on the beach. Insufficient ice for the ice fishermen. There were no skaters carving patterns in the ice for there was scarcely any ice, and that which there was, only a thin crust, so fragile it fell away under the toe of my shoe when I touched it. There were no ski trails or snowshoe tracks around the pond, though on Thursday when I walked there was still a smear of snow spread around the most of the shoreline. And even though the pond herself was carved into sections of ice and water, as though lanes of a swimming pool and the sun was out while I was walking, there were no hardy souls venturing into the water.

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Only a handful of others, walking along the shore or the path that skirted it, talking, taking photos or gazing into the distance.

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