Updated: August 21, 2012
Walden Pond covers 62 acres, but it's really much larger than that. In fact, few bodies of water have celebrity status to rival that of this serene pool in Concord, Massachusetts, now protected within the boundaries of Walden Pond State Reservation.
19th-century writer and Concord native Henry David Thoreau is, of course, responsible for turning the pretty pond into an icon. As you may remember from high school English classes, Thoreau removed himself from society and spent two years and two months "squatting" pondside in a cabin of his own construction. This exercise in seclusion and self-sufficiency, begun on the Fourth of July in 1845 and ended on September 6, 1847, provided the fodder for Thoreau's book, Walden, which is widely credited as giving rise to the conservation movement in America.
Walden Pond, which is open year-round to visitors, still provides an opportunity to ponder and appreciate nature's gifts, even if you don't have two years and two months to spare. As I walked along the shores of Walden Pond on a perfect fall day, camera poised to capture the loveliness of leaves reflecting in the placid water, my brain could only recall one line from Walden--"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately."
For Thoreau, living deliberately consisted of hunkering down in a one-room cabin and observing and reflecting on the ebb and flow of seasons and the meaning of life in a picture-perfect spot. A replica of Thoreau's cabin, which the author built at a cost of $28.12-1/2, is located across the street from the pond near the parking area in the state park; a trail leads to the actual location of Thoreau's cabin, which overlooked the pond. Perhaps it is a "writer thing," but I could honestly imagine living in that humble cabin for some time. Of course, with the number of visitors to the park these days, seclusion would be elusive, but then again, a well-placed sign saying, "Please Feed the Writer" might enable me to actually make a go of it.
The beach at Walden Pond is open to swimmers in the summer months, and a few brave souls even waded in on a mild October day. The autumn hues inspired some to tote sketchbooks. Many simply sat on blankets or in beach chairs, watching the ducks and kayakers. There is a small parking area near the boat launch for those who wish to explore Walden Pond via kayak, canoe or other non-motorized boat. Many walked along the shore or followed hiking trails along the pond's elevated banks. Others perched on stone walls surrounding the pond and closed their eyes. Perhaps they were better able than me to conjure up some of Thoreau's other Walden wisdom, such as: "Our life is frittered away by detail" and "Simplify, simplify."
If Thoreau was a writer today... and he had as many emails assaulting him daily as I do... he might never have left Walden Pond. Alas, I had to--so that I could share this scenic and historic place with you. If you can't get to Concord but could still use a dose of nature-inspired tranquility, visit Walden Pond virtually via my online album of photos from an incomparable fall day.