Looking at Walden Pond (Walden 48)

“For the first week, whenever I looked out on the pond it impressed me like a tarn high up on the side of a mountain, its bottom far above the surface of other lakes, and, as the sun arose, I saw it throwing off its nightly clothing of mist, and here and there, by degrees, its soft ripples or its smooth reflecting surface was revealed, while the mists, like ghosts, were stealthily withdrawing in every direction into the woods, as at the breaking up of some nocturnal conventicle. The very dew seemed to hang upon the trees later into the day than usual, as on the sides of mountains.” — Henry David Thoreau, Walden

If you are fortunate enough to live near an ocean, it may be difficult to appreciate how important lakes are to those of us who don’t. There’s just something about a body of water. But like anything, you have to spend time with it to understand it in all its moods. Henry’s descriptions, here and elsewhere, demonstrate this.

Something he doesn’t mention here: to really know a lake, you can’t just see it from shore. You have to get out on the water, and the smaller and quieter the boat the better. I’m not a fisherman, but I suspect that for many of them, fishing is largely an excuse to get out on the water in a little boat and just sit there. 

In my inflatable kayak on a chilly day in early March.

In my inflatable kayak on a chilly day in early March.

A warm evening in August. Holmes Lake, Lincoln, Nebraska

A warm evening in August. Holmes Lake, Lincoln, Nebraska

Here’s another generous dose of Walden Pond to take you through your day. Notice the care with which Henry pays attention to his surroundings:

“This small lake was of most value as a neighbor in the intervals of a gentle rain-storm in August, when, both air and water being perfectly still, but the sky overcast, mid-afternoon had all the serenity of evening, and the wood thrush sang around, and was heard from shore to shore. A lake like this is never smoother than at such a time; and the clear portion of the air above it being, shallow and darkened by clouds, the water, full of light and reflections, becomes a lower heaven itself so much the more important.

“From a hill-top near by, where the wood had been recently cut off, there was a pleasing vista southward across the pond, through a wide indentation in the hills which form the shore there, where their opposite sides sloping toward each other suggested a stream flowing out in that direction through a wooded valley, but stream there was none. That way I looked between and over the near green hills to some distant and higher ones in the horizon, tinged with blue. Indeed, by standing on tiptoe I could catch a glimpse of some of the peaks of the still bluer and more distant mountain ranges in the northwest, those true-blue coins from heaven’s own mint, and also of some portion of the village. But in other directions, even from this point, I could not see over or beyond the woods which surrounded me.”

(About  “A Year in Walden”)


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