The sun had already set when we walked our bikes along the pond. We
stretched our sleeping bags out under a stand of pine trees that
covered a hill overlooking the pond. We were off the main path, but
still had a good view of the water. Actually, we were half way up a
large hill overlooking the whole area. The highway was on the other
side of the pond from where we rolled out our sleeping bags– out of
sight and over the hill. It was peaceful. We decided against the
tents because we were lying on a pretty steep incline.
It had been cloudy all day, but the sky cleared just as we arrived at
Walden. Lying on our sleeping bags, we hoped it would stay that way.
We stayed awake into the evening, and when our conversation drifted
into silence, under the scattering of stars that could barely be seen
through the black outline of the scented pine trees above, I could
feel myself getting emotional. Thoreau’s book, Walden, had been an
inspirational book for me. The book made me feel good about my life.
Looking up into the same stars that Thoreau must have stared into
filled me with an intense feeling of goodness.
Thoreau, a role model for me, took a critical look at what it
meant to be successful—success being measured by wealth,
material goods, and status—and found it wanting. He then went to his
cabin and bean field to live a life of simplicity. By rejecting the
conventional notions of success, Thoreau legitimated universal
life-affirming values while keeping the ideal of individualism fully
intact and alive. He strove for economic self-sufficiency, and a
“higher truth.” By immersing himself in the wellsprings of nature, he
put himself in direct contact with the regenerative power of nature,
and in turn, was filled with a sense of the renewal that made possible
the development of a higher and richer knowledge. After a year at
Walden Pond, Thoreau discovered a “new sense of himself and the
world,” and, in the process, he left behind a kind of diary–Walden.
In fact, I remember how envious I became when I read how he learned to
cherish the “present condition of things” in the same way that two
lovers might cherish their embrace of each other. I should be so lucky!