My trip to Walden was, in a word, amazing. I was, after all, in my beloved Concord. How could I not be happy? The 12-hour drive did me some good; I relaxed, I laughed (thank you David Sedaris), but most of all, I was filled with the expectant anticipation of seeing my pond in Thoreau’s second favorite time of year.
While it was a bit chilly and gray upon my arrival, that did nothing to dampen my spirits. I threw my luggage into my quaint and cozy room, slapped on a few more layers for warmth, slipped on my wellies, and was out the front door of the historic Colonial Inn in a matter of moments. Since it was already so late, I decided to just walk down to Old Manse. The snow was at least two feet deep, and since there was no hard crust on top, I couldn’t stray of off the walk-ways without sinking up to my knees. It was no matter, however. Once I unstuck myself, I walked back over to the path leading to the North Bridge. The sun was setting, the clouds hung low, and the most serene stillness filled the air. As the darkness closed in around me, I didn’t feel apprehensive at all. I felt rejuvenated. I returned to the tree-lined road and began the walk back to the hotel, the thoughts of a cold beer, fresh chicken pot pie, and warm Indian pudding urging me forward.
The following morning I leaped from my bed with a smile on my face. I couldn’t get ready fast enough; it was Walden Day. First, I made my way over to the cemetery to say hello to a couple of old friends. I then headed over to Helen’s to enjoy one of their scrumptious breakfast sandwiches and cup of joe. Finally fueled and ready to go, I made my way to Walden.
As I slipped and slid down the frozen stone stairs behind the bathhouse, I looked up only to have my breath taken away. The pond was gloriously frozen solid; a veritable desert of ice. The sun shone brightly, and in the distance, in the middle of the pond, were a few ice-fishermen. With trepidation, I stepped onto the ice. I was scared to walk out too far, but it was exhilarating to think that I was standing where the water would otherwise be up to my waste.
On the path to the northeast side of the pond, I made my way round to the cabin site, snapping pictures left and right. I couldn’t drink it in fast enough. The scenery I was so used to seeing lush, green, pine-needle covered, and swaying in a slight breeze was now still, white, frozen, and beautiful in a completely new and surprising way. It was like seeing Walden for the first time all over again.
When I reached the cabin site, I was relieved to be alone. I took the time to write in my journal and to lie down on the frozen pond. The hard, cool surface felt welcoming, and if it wasn’t for the thought of the fisherman thinking I had fallen and that they needed to come rescue me, I could’ve laid there for hours. The sun was radiant, glittering off of the ice and twinkling through the now barren canopy of Walden Woods. I felt ridiculously giddy.
After spending a couple of hours at the pond, I reluctantly left but vowed to return for one last, brief visit before hitting the road home the following day. I drove down Walden Street winding my way back to the starting point of the pathways to Brister’s Hill. The paths there were a little harder to navigate, but I managed alright and was actually appreciative of the fact that it was more of a challenge. When I had left the pond, the church crowd started to appear, and the woods were filled with chatter. But at Brister’s, it was almost eerily quiet, and I loved every second of it. Once again, I felt compelled to lie down on the frozen snow and ice. Having to hike more aggressively over the snow-covered covered trails of the woods around Brister’s, it felt wonderful to take a break and stare up at the tree tops above and around me.
The following morning I looked out my hotel window to see snow falling so gracefully it seemed as if someone was standing above my window tossing feathers down to the ground. I knew I had to see what this looked like up at the pond. Fearing it would stop snowing before I could get there, I hurriedly put myself together, checked out of the hotel, and sped up to Walden.
I was the only person there, and I greedily soaked in that realization. Feeling a little more emboldened than the day prior, I walked out about 20 feet onto the ice. I stood there watching the flakes float lazily down to the earth and felt tears welling in my eyes. It was without a doubt the most beautiful scene I had ever laid eyes on, and I was overcome with joy and thankfulness. Despite the trails screaming to me to be the first to make tracks around the pond, I knew I had to make my way home. Reluctantly, I climbed my way back up to my SUV and made the long trek back to Ohio.
The whole point of going to the pond was to leave behind my grumpiness and my winter blues, but I soon found, much to my dismay, that I felt the same as when I had left Ohio. It wasn’t until Laura, Ann Marie, and I went to visit Sara and her new baby, Jack, that I realized why I was still grumpy. The epiphany hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. I was complaining to Sara about, well, absolutely nothing really, when I saw the looks on my friends’ faces. There it was, plainly displayed on their furrowed brows and in their rolling eyes – I was annoying my friends! I was instantly embarrassed and quite upset with myself for selfishly ranting.
I didn’t leave the negativity at Walden after all. I was supposed to take my blues with me, leave them at the pond to dissipate in the sun and ice, and come back cleared of that toxic yuckiness, but I had forgotten the most important step. At first, I was frustrated with myself for not taking care of my intentions, but that’s when the realization set it. While it was lovely to return to my Mecca, I didn’t need to get away to be able let go of my negativity. I just needed to let – it – go. My trip was fabulous and I’m quite happy I went, but what really made me face and release those winter blues wasn’t hundreds of miles away after all – it was always right here, at home.