I have a million excuses I could give, but I won’t waste too much time on that. A couple of big things (my dog passing away and buying my first home/moving) kept me away from the woods.
I’m all settled now, and it was time to get back on the horse…mountain…bicycle?…trail…
It was time to get my shit together.
I knew that today would be my window in between snowstorms to get myself out there, and I knew I had to take it. Last night I sat thinking of the perfect place to go to rekindle the flame, and I almost considered going back to the Andres Institute of Art to see Windows into Big Bear Mountain. That would have been nice, but I knew there was something better…a bigger, more romantic gesture.
Henry David Thoreau. The man who taught us to retreat to the woods when we wish to live deliberately. The King of Solitude. Walden Pond. Walden. Pond.
I waited until the afternoon in hopes that it would warm up, but it stayed around 17 degrees. I threw a quick pack together, laced up my boots, snagged extra layers and headed out.
I’ve been to Walden Pond quite a few times in my life. A few visits in the fall in my early twenties, and when I nannied for a family in Concord, I took my 2 year old companion just about once a week during the summer months.
I’d never been in full snow.
I quickly realized the paths were well cleared and I’d have no trouble. I took a right and started my loop around the pond.
There were a few other visitors: hikers, snow shoe-ers, even cross country skiers. Everyone was in friendly spirits, despite the piercing cold air and February’s repeated pounding of snowfall. And although my solitude is precious, their passing company didn’t bother me at all. The snow has a way of blanketing over the voices and creating the illusion of a solitary experience.
The crunch of the snow beneath my boots reminded me of the crunch of fallen leaves. It reminded me of why I was out there in the first place. I took lots of deep breaths and slow looks around. I’d been so disappointed in myself for staying away for so long.
Then, I arrived at the site of Thoreau’s cabin. At different points in our lives, we can visit, read, listen to, or experience something that we have in our younger years, and connect with it in a completely different manner at an older age. I didn’t expect to draw a line between my being a first time home owner to that little space in the woods. It had always been a Thoreau=Nature equation for me, but today I found myself marveling at his solitude more than anything. I know my condo isn’t a minute cabin in the woods, and I have neighbors, plumbing, wi-fi, etc…but I’ve found solace in my own little space.
Update: I now have a notebook.
The trees are happy, presenting the snow on their limbs like white puff pastries.
It was at this point that I decided to veer away from the trail (because, well, I’m not great at obeying signs). I looped around through the trees and stole peeks of the pond from a higher elevation. The moment I arrived by the train tracks, the train rode by at that exact moment. I considered the Thoreau mindset of being alone in nature, but still being in ear/eyeshot of civilization. The train was a collision, a side by side, a reminder that these two worlds are able to exist next to one another. I grinned like an idiot as it passed by (a guaranteed laugh for the passengers on board).
As I connected back to the main trail, I knew my addiction was as strong as ever (it only takes one time, right?) I finished the trail and wound up on the beach where visitors go during the summer time. I found a bench, and discovered that someone had cleared off a little section of it. I sat down. I feared I literally might freeze to it and become stuck, but I ignored the burning cold and focused on the view in front of me.
I jotted down a few last thoughts in my notebook before making my way back to the Jeep. I imagined being Thoreau. I imagined coming back in the spring. I missed my dog and I missed October. I picked a frozen hunk of snow out of my sock and took in one last, big, cold weather “sniff.” I stood up (thankfully not taking the entire bench with me) and kicked my way through the snow.
And then I went home.
Final thoughts: Don’t stop doing what feels good. If you have to take a break…just make sure you go back to it. And suck out all the marrow of life you can.