A visit to Walden Pond and site of Thoreau’s Cabin, Concord, Massachusetts

Massachusetts is a beautiful state and we were lucky to visit in Fall…2019. One afternoon we (along with my sister’s family) decided to drive to Walden Pond, currently a tourist spot which has the fame of housing the great Transcendentalist thinker Henry David Thoreau for 2 years, 2 months and 2 days. Thoreau took this “exile” into the woods to internalize and this stay of two years brought forth the famous book, Walden, Life in the woods which is a demonstration of how easy it can be to acquire the four necessities of life, Food, Clothing, Shelter and Fuel. Once acquired, he believed people should then focus their efforts on personal growth. The two years he spent there were proof that its possible to live in alignment with nature without craving for excesses which man has to toil more to get them.

Did not know so much about Walden Pond and its significance when we visited (I wish I had read up earlier) The sylvan surroundings (right from the huge parking space in a wooded area opposite) to the Pond itself was impressive. We just soaked in the beauty of the place.

The pond/lake itself is called a Kettle Lake. The lake has been formed by a depression or a hole created by retreating glaciers. The kettles are formed as a result of blocks of dead ice left behind by retreating glaciers, which become surrounded by sediment deposited by meltwater streams as there is increased friction. There is a wooded trail which goes around the circumference of the lake. The whole area is 665 acres and the pond is 64.5 acres. We made my Mom who is 75 years old sit in a comfortable ledge overlooking the lake while we took the path (2 miles) which went around the pond. We took the easy trail! There seemed to be several trails, some quite steep uphill. Some parts of the path were so narrow that we had to move in single file. There were people walking the opposite side too but most politely let the other pass by first!

There is a replica of the Thoreau Cabin in one end of the Pond. Where the actual cabin stood, the site has been preserved by signs and stones. It was only much afterward when I read up about the place that I realized that I was standing on such a historical site, which triggered Thoreau’s thoughts on Transcendentalism and Individualism. I believe the Walden Pond belonged to Thoreau’s friend Emerson. Emerson gave the space to him for the two years where he stayed away from people to internalize on thoughts varying about life and nature. He did have lots of visitors in the cabin. He went back to town life after the 2 years of solitary living.

I believe Mahatma Gandhi was influenced by Thoreau’s writings on Civil Disobedience, although the Mahatma had started the movement even before he read Thoreau’s work, in South Africa. Gandhi had named the moment as Passive Resistance. Thoreau had also influenced thinkers like Leo Tolstoy and Martin Luther King.

Thoreau has been greatly influenced by Hindu Scriptures especially the Bhagavad Gita. In his book, “A week on the Concord and Merrimac Rivers” (Circa 1849) he has actually quoted 47 verses from Hindu original sources. His book on Walden (Circa 1854) has philosophy acquired from extensive reading of Vedanta which seemed to have answers to all the questions he had in his mind about life.

The pond is not by Chennai standards a Pond! It’s a huge lake! Picturesque crystal-clear water with an enclosure of wooded trails. Sort of like an amphi theatre overlooking a spectacle about to happen. There are legends which support this feeling of mystery.

“An old man, a potter, who lived by the pond before the Revolution said, once that there was an iron chest at the bottom, and that he had seen it. Sometimes it would come floating up to the shore; but when you went toward it, it would go back into the deep water and disappear”
Maybe just hearsay but adds to the mystery element which as we Indians invariably are attracted to!



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