At the bottom of the ramp a woman stops, turns, and stands, looking out into the vast pond space. Her hat is pulled low and her coat pulled high. I try to see her eyes. Obscured. Somehow I feel their cloudiness, the longing with which they dream into the clean clear air over the pond. I feel a sadness I cannot explain. I hear a sniffle. She gazes down, and in an instant turns and walks up the ramp. Quickly.
I have been that woman. I know her. I know many who are that woman, coming to Walden, bringing unanswerable questions from their lives.
I look out into the pond which should be a pond today. The sky so blue and the temperature above fifty. But it is not. It is a pattern in ice. Strange concentric circles, tinged white with the hope of blue beneath. A mystery asking to be solved. Chiseled out to reveal what lies below.
This day a year ago I came here in my wetsuit and the water took my breath away.
I walk. I choose to walk the path I know will be less populated. The shaded side. On Sunday it was covered with slick translucent ice. Today, Tuesday water trickles alongside it, edging it into thaw. Leaves. Brown sludge.
I come upon another woman. She sits. Quiet upon stone staring into the pond’s ice face. What does she think about? Looking out over the clear white space of Walden. Birdsong ringing from the distant woods. Presently she gets up, walks past where I am standing. We do not acknowledge each other. Each in our own private worlds…
There is a place where the train tracks edge the border of Walden Woods. The train to Fitchburg rattled along the shiny metal rails not too many minutes ago. Disturbing the stillness of the woods.
Back on the pond trail there are more solitary figures, their only company the grinding dirt beneath their sneakers. An occasional airplane drones overhead. The far off insistence of birds lingers after. And more now, as I come to the sunny aspect of the pond, water. Shallow transparent glimmer dappling smooth round stones beneath its surface. Jade green. An invitation into the depth of Walden. Rich and luxurious.
I think of swimming. It won’t be long now before the water caresses my skin and the rhythm of my breath refreshes the spirit.