An amazing afternoon of staring at the water (Walden 134)

Today Thoreau is sitting on a hilltop staring down at the pond. That’s it. Just sitting on a stump, staring at still water. He can see almost the whole pond from where he’s at, and nothing is happening. Or rather, that’s how it might seem to the casual eye, the impatient eye, the eye that isn’t really seeing.

“From a hilltop you can see a fish leap in almost any part; for not a pickerel or shiner picks an insect from this smooth surface but it manifestly disturbs the equilibrium of the whole lake. It is wonderful with what elaborateness this simple fact is advertised — this piscine murder will out — and from my distant perch I distinguish the circling undulations when they are half a dozen rods in diameter.

“You can even detect a water-bug (Gyrinus) ceaselessly progressing over the smooth surface a quarter of a mile off; for they furrow the water slightly, making a conspicuous ripple bounded by two diverging lines…”

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Not a waterbug, but an inflatable kayak moving slow on smooth water.

“It is a soothing employment, on one of those fine days in the fall when all the warmth of the sun is fully appreciated, to sit on a stump on such a height as this, overlooking the pond, and study the dimpling circles which are incessantly inscribed on its otherwise invisible surface amid the reflected skies and trees. Over this great expanse there is no disturbance but it is thus at once gently smoothed away and assuaged, as, when a vase of water is jarred, the trembling circles seek the shore and all is smooth again.”

One thing I think Henry would never have said of the pond (or of any place): ‘There’s nothing going on.’ That sentence only means that you aren’t paying attention. Look closer. Find an unfamiliar vantage point. Select a different visual scale, or a different time scale. Truth is, there’s so much going on that it’s impossible to comprehend it all.

(About  “A Year in Walden”)

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2 thoughts on “An amazing afternoon of staring at the water (Walden 134)

  1. buddy71

    one year, many years ago, as a practice for a climb to Denali, my friend and climbing partner spent sometime on mt. rainier.
    we climbed to the 10.000 ft level and spent most of the day sitting and admiring the view of the land below us. though not a pond/lake, it was a soothing enjoyment all the same. it was quiet, and the view stunning and clear. it was a fine day and one that fondly remember.

    Reply

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