Walden Pond is temporary (Walden 130)

Walden Pond in autumn. Wikimedia Commons

Walden Pond in autumn. Wikimedia Commons

Just one more thought about the origin of Walden Pond. After discussing local legends, Thoreau writes, “It is very certain, at any rate, that once there was no pond here, and now there is one…”

Can’t argue with that. My understanding is that geologists — who are used to thinking in terms of deep time — consider today’s lakes to be recent and relatively ephemeral features of the landscape. They form, they vanish. Most of today’s lakes were produced by glaciers — and the latest ice age ended barely 10,000 years ago, a blink of the eye in geological time.

OK, admittedly everything is temporary if your timescale is long enough. The universe itself is doomed. I’m not trying to be gloomy. This is actually rather mind blowing if you think about it. Try looking at your familiar landscapes that way — as temporary. Imagine what the land looked like before its most salient features were present. Imagine what it might look like afterward. The point here isn’t to be morbid, but to remind ourselves that we are living at a moment in time and view our surroundings from the limited perspective of a brief human lifespan.

Which makes each landscape that much more special and wonderful. It wasn’t always like this, and will never be exactly this way again. It is a unique moment. But at the same time, the “moment” of many natural features is so long by our reckoning that we can live our whole lives, whole chains of generations, within one.

(About  “A Year in Walden”)


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