I found that I didn’t have a photo quite like what Thoreau describes – but instead of “quicksilver” I’ll substitute some sunset gold from Holmes Lake, Lincoln, Nebraska.
“In such a day, in September or October, Walden is a perfect forest mirror, set round with stones as precious to my eye as if fewer or rarer. Nothing so fair, so pure, and at the same time so large, as a lake, perchance, lies on the surface of the earth. Sky water. It needs no fence. Nations come and go without defiling it. It is a mirror which no stone can crack, whose quicksilver will never wear off, whose gilding Nature continually repairs; no storms, no dust, can dim its surface ever fresh; — a mirror in which all impurity presented to it sinks, swept and dusted by the sun’s hazy brush — this the light dust-cloth — which retains no breath that is breathed on it, but sends its own to float as clouds high above its surface, and be reflected in its bosom still.”
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. Continue reading →
I want to follow up on the previous post and encourage you to find a way, as Thoreau did, to get out on the water after dark. It’s not enough to be beside a lake or pond. You have to be floating on it. Sometimes I take my kayak to a local lake just before sunset and paddle into through twilight and watch the stars come out. Continue reading →
Flowers won’t be blooming too much longer where I live. This late in the season a frost could do them in at any time. I find myself looking more closely in October than in, say, July, when the summer still seems endless. When you feel the nights growing colder, you know it’s time to enjoy the season before it changes.
Thoreau’s cabin wasn’t far from town and Walden Pond wasn’t truly a wilderness. Even so, living there he experienced a level of solitude that is increasingly rare in today’s world.
Detail of 1852 map, showing Concord and Walden Pond. Library of Congress
“For what reason have I this vast range and circuit, some square miles of unfrequented forest, for my privacy, abandoned to me by men? My nearest neighbor is a mile distant, and no house is visible from any place but the hill-tops within half a mile of my own. … I have, as it were, my own sun and moon and stars, and a little world all to myself.” Continue reading →
“This is a delicious evening, when the whole body is one sense, and imbibes delight through every pore. I go and come with a strange liberty in Nature, a part of herself.” —Henry David Thoreau, “Solitude,” Walden Continue reading →