A Thousand Meandering Thoughts in the Pond

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A thousand different thoughts and feelings as the waves swipe me one after the other a million times over. Today, in just a bathing suit after only a week ago feeling the chill creep under my wetsuit I amazingly still manage to lie across the surface as if I am being held by some miracle. I thank God for the power and strength to do this as I winde myself more and more into the face of the wind pushing at me. I feel peculiar, like a rat on a water treadmill stroking with all my might, going no where. I modify my direction so I am swimming across the face of the waves and it is even more bizarre. Suddenly all the world seems to be pushing against me, forbidding my getting to the shore I have in my mind to swim toward. I pass another swimmer and watch him turn his head to watch me. I sense his curiosity at the sight of this lone body pushing and simultaneously being pulled.

Swimming in open water is such an explosive psychic experience.

Somehow I find a rhythm and my body falls into a synchronicity I do not own on land between the back ache and the neck pain and the tired feet. My arms take on a tempo of their own and my breath takes her cue from them. I relax into joy. This is the moment I long for and it lasts and lasts like laughter, the kind that leaves your sides aching though and through, and if I think too deeply, move one muscle out of its context, even raise an eyebrow higher than before realizing the distance from me to shore is still a long way off and I am tiring, it might vanish as quickly as it established itself. Now I feel like that miracle and again I thank God and any other being who watches over me, a tiny speck of insignificance in this mass of wonder and water tumbling over and over and I begin to believe I belong in the water: a dolphin perhaps…?

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A Walden Contemplation

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My last visit to Walden for 2016 was on Boxing Day, December 26 when, I have to admit I was surprised to find the pond had started to ice over. Perhaps I have amnesia for the seasons these days (I certainly think 2016 has raced toward its end,) for I thought as I walked down the ramp that it was rather premature. But perhaps it is not. These days the pond does not ice completely until around the second week of January.

As my sister from Australia is visiting with her family we went into the visitors center before beginning our walk. We read Thoreau’s journal entry from December 28, 1856.

“Walden completely frozen over again last night.” (p.199 The Walden Fishermen).

I guess things have changed over the last 150 years or so!

I thought I’d share with you a few of photos from our walk. I’m not sure what’s happened since the 26th. I’m now looking out on a winter wonderland over the treetops of Stowe Vermont.

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Happy New Year and Much Gratitude to you my Readers for continuing to support my blog.

May we all have a Peaceful and Prosperous 2017 and continue to learn to work together in Harmony and with Love and Understanding of our Differences.

Liz

Getting Ready for the New Visitors Center

Watching the workmen struggling under one of the carefully shaped and smoothed tree trunks lying along the dirt walkway; it is to provide seating as visitors make their way from the DCR’s New Visitor Center to the pond I had to comment, “Wow, that’s some reversing job you guys did.” Behind them, wedged neatly between two trees and just to the right of the statue of Thoreau (outside the entrance of the replica of his house), was a small forklift. In its jaws, the tree trunk the men were working under, sweating in the heat and humidity of the summer morning while they twisted a metal base into place to elevate it. As I walked on I wished I had my phone with me to take a photo but I was hurrying off for my morning swim. When I returned and saw it and the other few “seats” all sitting on their metal bases I commented “Well, I see you got the forklift out then.”
“Piece of cake,” one of the guys answered.
“I wish I had been there to see it but I was in the middle of the pond.”
“I wish I’d been there,” he replied.
“Certainly was quieter than it was here I imagine.” It was only about 10 am yet already the pond was closed due to parking reaching capacity.
When I changed I did bring my phone back and take some photos, managing to capture the last of the work the men were doing. That is when the idea for this blog post germinated.

It’s a little under a month now until the New Visitors Center at Walden Pond is due to open and I thought I would share some photos. This morning I was wandering around the perimeter of the fence looking for the best angle to put my phone up to the cyclone wiring when I bumped into one of my DCR buddies. I mentioned to him I wanted to take some photos to put up on my blog. The landscaper happened to be walking by.
“Hey, can you let her in so she can take some photos?” he asked.
“Sure,” the landscaper replied, opening the cyclone fence and leading the way.
He proceeded to tell me the landscaping would be completed in a week. “only another hundred natives to be planted.” I already knew that the visitor center itself was scheduled to be completed by August 1.

Wandering around and looking at the amazing variety of plants it is easy to imagine that there are over a thousand natives here, including native and wild blueberries, (Yes, they are meant to be picked by visitors). What isn’t so easy for a novice like me to imagine is how anyone could plan all this, but then I guess that’s why I just swim across the pond and admire the work of others on the land, while others do the planning and layout and execution of it ….

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I can’t wait to see the finished visitors center and gardens … and not long now, (and the real bathrooms too!!!)

The Best Kind of Gift.

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I returned to Walden on Thanksgiving, this time accompanied by my daughter. It is the second year Kari and I have joined the many visitors who spend a part of Thanksgiving Day walking at Walden: a tradition that for us seems to have grown out of our common need to spend time in quiet comfort of nature since losing Kari’s twin sister Jesi.
…Thanksgiving is the first in the second year of ‘holidays’ we have to navigate since Jesi passed away in September 2014…

Yet unlike last year, neither Kari or I mentioned Jesi. I am sure we both thought about her though. For me, I can never visit Walden without thinking of Jesi, still seeing her smile at the place she sat on a rock munching an apple or tip toed in the shallow water calling out how cold it was or took photos of tree roots pushing their way through dirt and stones. Over the last year, however, Kari and I have evolved so that this visit, the focus was less on our sadness and more on us chatting about what is going on in life now. I feel very grateful that I have been able to develop such a close relationship with Kari, who is in her senior year of high school and applying for college and I listened to her excitedly informing me of her progress in compiling her applications. Occasionally I would jokingly change the subject, interjecting about how pretty the water looked when it was still and where it would be sheltered from the breeze today, impressing upon her my knowledge of the pond through my daily study of it during the swimming season.

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But Kari’s company was not all I was grateful for at Walden. As we were walking along the shore on the south side of the pond a text came through on my phone. I had been thinking about my swimming buddy Cathy earlier in the day but it was at this moment that she texted wishing me a happy thanksgiving, mentioning how our swims during the fall were on the top of her gratitude list.

Cathy was right, Fall was a marvelous season of swimming this year, and I too am very grateful. Walden is a gift that we and many other open water swimmers share. The best kind of gift of all.

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Walden’s Giving Pool

She was waiting for me at the wall, a light cotton top over her swimsuit. The salmon pink revealed her honey tan. Thinking it was her, I waved. I had been wondering if she would still be there. She had waited for me, waited until we had a chance to meet before christening her new suit in Walden. As she pulled off her shirt the bright yellow ribbing glowed against her skin, setting off the array of colored butterflies, or perhaps they were birds, darting amongst the green undergrowth of cloth on which they flew. “You look awesome,” I called out. “It fits perfectly,” she replied. I broke into a wide grin.
It amazed me yet again how anxious I had been buying the gift, worried I would not get the right size or that it would suit her.

It was another perfect day for swimming and the water was a deep reflective green. The sky seemed paler than yesterday and the clouds like wisps of fine white hair teased and spread across it. By the time I let myself glide into the water Cathy was already out of sight, lost in the vast space of the pond. For mid July the water seemed cool but by the time I had swum a couple of strokes I ceased to think or even notice it.

It wasn’t until I was over two-thirds on my way across the pond, almost at Sandy Point which now spreads itself around a curve in the shoreline as a beach, that it came to me. The smile which I had captured on the selfie we had taken before we left the beach. It was an expression I had not managed to capture on film before and I was curious to remember what I had been thinking when I clicked the button. It was about joy. Sensing Cathy’s gratitude, her feelings had been contagious.

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My mind drifted as I continued to reach forward, right then left into the silent green water. I thought back to the previous couple of days, to a totally different scenario, when sitting sweltering in my car at a stop light on route 16 in Cambridge, I watched a young and scruffy looking man with his sign “homeless and hungry, please help,” as he approached where I was stopped. I looked intently toward him and smiled but made no attempt to reach into my bag. I always feel divided in this type of situation, half of me wondering what the dollar I sometimes wave out of my window might get spent on, the other half feeling guilty for having resources, even the car I am sitting in, when others do not even have homes. I watched as the young man took a muesli bar which someone in a car ahead of me handed him and it suddenly dawned on me I could have a box of muesli bars in my bag too, to hand them out in this situation.
That afternoon I stood in front of the breakfast bar selection in the grocery store and bought a box which I thought, if I never get up the courage to give away, I would feel comfortable eating myself. This meant I settled on the Kind bars as opposed to the Nutrigrain bars. Still rhythmically blowing and breathing as I glided through Walden my thoughts flicked forward to the following day when I handed out two of my supply, one to an older man I often see and the other to an older woman I had never seen before. In both instances I waited until I saw that their signs specifically stated they were hungry. I glowed as I turned to swim toward Ice Cove Fort, thinking of the interaction I had had with the woman.
Before she passed my car she had shifted onto the sidewalk, sensing the light was about to change. I had my window half open and was digging into the box trying to retrieve a bar. Grabbing it, I half heartedly waved it in my hand, calling out through the half closed window. She didn’t hear. The light changed. I drove on. But it haunted me. Her thin legs, her unkept clothes, the words “I’m hungry” in small blue print. I drove four blocks and made a mental note that I could go back but would run the errand I had to do first, knowing too well that I might be too focused on getting home and would most probably let it slip.
The haunting continued. It would not release its hold despite my anxiety that my gift may not be welcome. I headed back anyway, but not wanting to tackle the rush hour traffic again, turned off into a side street, parked and walked the two blocks back to the intersection. I waited self consciously to cross the road gripping the bar in my palm. I saw her walking back along the side walk just as she had done when I had been sitting in my car. When I approached her a told her I had not been able to attract her attention but wanted to give her “this,” handing her the oat and honey bar. Her face instantly broke out into the biggest smile ever. She ripped open the plastic and took a bite exclaiming “You’re so kind.”
But the biggest gift was mine. The gratitude I saw in her eyes and read in her face.
Just like the gift Cathy gave me today before we launched ourselves into Walden’s giving pool, leaving me to contemplate what sometimes causes me to forget to be kind.

Friendship

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I had been wondering when would I venture into Walden’s tranquil or sometime wind rippled water again. I had seen figures, clad in black with flailing insect limbs thrown rhythmically over their sleek torsos, goggle eyes cruising the choppy surface. It must have been cold, I thought, watching their ungainly strides across the pond. Or was it just an excuse I gave myself for not feeling as adventurous as they were?

But on Monday the calendar, already turned into May and the thermometer climbing into the upper eighties, I no longer had an excuse. I scanned the car park looking for signs of wetsuits as I carried mine, its lifeless sleeves dangling from its doubled over body, its legs poised to stand on ankles as thin as sapling trunks. I flung my bag over my shoulder, jammed with what I thought I might need for this, my first swim of the season. I had no idea what the water temperature might be. I only knew that I would warm quickly once I clambered out after my swim and stood in the heat of the summer, the really only spring, sunshine.
A smile shaped my face as I recognized my friend’s car. Cathy was here. What more could I ask to get me over the anxieties of the unknown! I hastened my steps across the road and onto the ramped walkway, skipping down the stone steps and around the side of the rock wall onto the beach, only to find that Tom and Barbara were sitting in low beach chairs looking out over the pond. The gang was back. Walden’s community reassembling after a long harsh winter.
After swimming indoors for the first in a dozen winters, another excuse which had been keeping me out of Walden, doing stroke correction with a local masters group, I had finally progressed to a point I was enjoying freestyle, the feeling of gliding through the water with a long slow stroke, allowing my hands to drift downward before pulling them swiftly through the water. “Make it feel like you’re skating,” my coach had constantly been reminding me. I didn’t really want to go into the pond in a wetsuit and I couldn’t even contemplate wearing gloves. I would quickly slip back into the bad habits I had spent months conquering. Having my legs float in the wetsuit would be bad enough. I knew it would throw off the action of my kick but gloves…

I didn’t wear gloves, though I was cautious with the cold and wore a synthetic shirt and bike shorts under my wetsuit, as well as a neoprene cap over my regular bathing cap. I stood in the water greeting Cathy who arrived back after her swim and already I felt my feet beginning to chill. “High fifties” she told me, referring to the water temperature. “That reading was taken in the shallow water” she continued. We both knew that meant it was probably colder further out.“I’d better go before I get to cold,” I replied giving her a hug.

On my journey down the right side of the pond, the waves, pushed by the onshore wind washed into my face, making the grace which I was anticipating feeling a disjointed gasping for breath. But as I approached the point leading into Thoreau Cove the wind relinquished its push, the waters flattened out and the gliding began. Thoughts of turning back and making this enough for day one dissolved despite the fact the chill crept further inside my skin.

The return journey felt easier, possibly due to the fact the wind was now working with the waves as I sloshed through them, or perhaps it was just the sheer exhilaration that I was back in Walden after months of flip turning every 25 meters. Or perhaps it was a little of both.

Back on the beach Cathy was sitting in a chair waiting for me. Her face was turned to the sun and her eyes closed. “I wanted to wait for you to get back,” she told me as I wandered up to her, trying not to drip on her outstretched legs. “That’s so kind of you,” I replied, touched once more by her friendship.

When we said good bye in the car park to go to our respective ways I thought again how lucky I was to have found Walden and all it bought me. But most of all, I felt grateful for friends like Cathy.

The Magic That Only Time Knows

no…this isn’t about Walden…it isn’t even about money (otherwise I don’t think i would reblog it)…..but it is well worth spending the time to read to the end
i have been following Lynette and her blog for months now…marveling at her blogging and her success as a writer….and she is Australian….which may in fact be what attracted me first
Anyway…this post speaks of something very dear to us all, something we often do not take much notice of, or show much gratitude for

Losing Jesi has opened my eyes to it…and it is fitting that as the United States embarks on Thanksgiving week’s celebrations with family….I remember what we have to be thankful for

I will be walking at Walden on Thanksgiving morning…snow (1-3 inches expected) and all…..as that is the place where Jesi comes to me….so while I am grateful for the end of her suffering, I am also grateful for all the minutes of her lovely life she gave to me and the opportunity she allowed me in being her mother
thank you Lynette, and thank you Jesi…

Lynette Noni

My mother sent me a forwarded email the other day and something about it just stuck with me, so I wanted to share it with you. The original author isn’t known—the following text was found in the billfold of a man named Coach Paul Bear Bryant upon his death in 1982.

The Magic Bank Account

Imagine that you had won the following *PRIZE* in a contest: Each morning your bank would deposit $86,400 in your private account for your use.  However, this prize has rules:

The set of rules:

1. Everything that you didn’t spend during each day would be taken away from you.

2. You may not simply transfer money into some other account.

3. You may only spend it.

4. Each morning upon awakening, the bank opens your account with another $86,400 for that day.

5. The bank can end the game without warning; at any time it…

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