Monday, March 15, 2010

Finding it where you are

Yes, I've been to Walden. Been there several times, in fact. With students. We sat on the earth at the site of the cabin and read from the book. And the wind stirred the pines, and the hickories, and the oaks, and rippled the pond that shone like silver in the early morning sun. And then, to honor the spirit of the man we came to visit, we sat silently, as if on the stoop of his cabin with friends, knowing that any words, even his own, intruded on the haunting beauty of the place itself.

Mary Oliver has a poem called "Going To Walden," in which she recounts refusing an invitation to visit the pond, remembering "that far-off Yankee whisper:/ How dull we grow from hurrying here and there!" Going to Walden is not so easy a thing as taking oneself to Concord, she writes. Rather: "It is the slow and difficult/ Trick of living, and finding it where you are."

Maybe so. No, certainly so. And yet, and yet. I don't regret having made the journey, particularly with young people who, like me, are used to hurrying here and there, and who, maybe, just maybe, while sitting in the silence and the shadows of pines, and hickories, and oaks, caught a glimmer of the trick of living that sustained Thoreau in his anchored solitude.