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The Walden Way

Updated: Apr 21

Walden Pond has long had a hold on our imagination. Recently on a bluebird day in April, I found my way to the shore of Walden. Surprisingly this was my first visit. Perhaps I was worried that reality wouldn't match what I experienced/felt in reading and rereading Henry David Thoreau's sentinel work 'Walden'.


No need to worry. I was inspired as I stood at the site of Thoreau's cabin 10' x 15', which he built by hand in 1845 at age 27. Here he lived alone for two years, a mile from the nearest neighbor overlooking Walden pond. He kept a journal documenting what he noticed, while reflecting on his thoughts and feelings. From this modest cabin he would begin each day bathing in the pond, tending to his garden, taking meticulous scientific notes documenting the changes of the seasons.


While drawn to the solitude and quiet he welcomed visits by friends and family. And, Thoreau was deeply spiritual, a mystic at heart. For him the Divine was experienced in the wonder and complexity of nature. He wrote: "My calling is to watch for, describe all the divine features which I detect in nature. My profession is to always be on the alert to find God in nature - to know his lurking places, to attend all the oratorios, the operas in the natural world."



Stone markers outline Thoreau's cabin, 10' x 15'


His life in that isolated cabin, while seemingly small was in practice, expansive. Thoreau called people to 'simplify, simplify!' By this he meant to let go of what isn't essential and to focus on what matters. In essence he was calling us to live an authentic life. To focus not on the accumulation of possessions, rather to savor the beauty and wonder that surrounds us.



So it was on that bluebird day in April, I too walked in the footsteps of Thoreau. I walked alongside others from far and near. I stood by a mom and young daughter from Indiana, as we placed stones on a cairn, alongside a marker of where Henry had lived and penned the words to his work 'Walden'. A book that would in time become an environmental manifesto.

Stone steps for swimming and for some 'ritual purification'.


Alongside the pond, I saw stone steps leading to the water. On that day the water temp was 53 degrees. Yet, a dozen or so could be seen bathing in the water. One family visiting from Vietnam told me that they immersed themselves as a rite of purification, to better receive the wisdom of Thoreau.


What are your pilgrimage sites? Where do you go and to whom do you turn for wisdom, clarity, inspiration?


We are all in need of hope and guidance during this troubled time. 2023 was the hottest year in recorded history and the first three months of 2024 exceed that data. The coral reefs which provide habitat for 25% of marine life are threatened with a worldwide bleaching (die off) the result of a rapidly heating ocean.


What would Henry David Thoreau have us say and do?


Surely, he would not be silent. This radical abolitionist, who practiced non violent resistance (and even went to jail), what might he say and do to protect our natural world? His call to 'simplify, simplify!' takes on an urgency. A prophetic challenge to the Western mindset that too often views nature as a commodity rather than as a sacred trust.


Let's give Henry the final word: "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life and see if I could not only learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."


And this: "In wildness is the preservation of the World."


With you on the journey ~ Kent Harrop


Note: To get involved for the sake of our planet, check out 350.org; to learn more about Thoreau read 'Henry David Thoreau: A Life' by Laura Dassow Wall and/or 'The Gospel According to This Moment: The Spiritual Message of Henry David Thoreau' by Barry M. Andrews.

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