Walden pond remains immeasurably breathless, welcoming young and old to its shores. I can’t help feeling, however, that Thoreau would be sorely disappointed with what has become of the “visitor’s center.”
Just last fall, in an attempt to show my girlfriend what Walden looks like at sunset from above, a fucking state trooper screamed at me for parking a uHaul in the gift shop parking lot for one minute. We had hardly stepped out of the car (in an otherwise empty parking lot), when the trooper yelled across the street, warning me that I’d get a ticket if I didn’t move right away.
“Just five minutes?” I begged.
This only caused her temper to flare. “What makes you so special?” she quipped, nostrils visibly quivering from 50 feet away.
“Ok, ok, I’m coming,” I said as I jogged back to the car from across the street, seriously worried she might handcuff me. “Well, at least you got to see the pond,” I told Michelle halfheartedly.
Restriction. As time passes, the shackles grow tighter on what was once free and available, and rich living becomes a product of living richly. It isn’t always so, but we have been offered a plethora of paths to “happiness,” many with seeming formulaic routes. Thoreau had his hands, strong and calloused, that built his cabin, that scribbled with pen on paper — on which he wrote, “How happens it that he who is said to enjoy these things is so commonly a poor civilized man, while the savage, who has them not, is rich as a savage?”
Excuse the savagery, but Thoreau, in a word or two, explains that a Native American living in a cost free wigwam, his own, is far richer than the civilized man, who toils, but cannot afford the home in which he lives, while sparing all his extra income for Venetian blinds and perceived luxury.
And we have to pay to park by the pond. We have to pay to visit that which grows naturally from the earth.
We pay for college, and we live in debt to the institutions that send us on our way, sometimes with success, and sometimes without. There is no guarantee that debt = success. And often we get stuck, mired in what seems like a sure thing, but ends up as a dead end. Toiling behind a desk. That, in my opinion, is not living richly.
We tell stories to live, a friend wiser than myself explains in the video above. (Really, you should watch that.)
I say it nonchalantly, without explanation, because you can take my word that it is true for me. I’ve told stories from a desk, and it is fulfilling in ways, sure. But it is lacking. It is restricting. Stories are free, but you have to search for them.
Putting a phone and a computer between you and your story — it’s like paying for something you can very well go out and experience yourself. Working for a newspaper that attempts to cover the entire country with groundbreaking work is overwhelming. The effort is admirable, but the product is glossed over. To be able to truly convey a story, you must immerse yourself in the story. Fuck restrictions. Lose inhibitions. Act first, apologize later.
You have to wade into Walden’s water to truly know it. The view from above doesn’t suffice, no matter how breathtaking the sky.
Here I stand at the precipice of something different, without an employer in just a few days time. What will I make of this opportunity? Will I restrict myself to what’s easy and convenient, or will I reach for the unknown? Transition is, practically by definition, a challenging and physically demanding adjustment. But what better way to tear off the shackles than by stretching my legs, letting my feet do the work and allowing my mind go along for the ride.
It’s time to escape. First, however, I think I’ll have to pay $5 to park at the visitor’s center. One last time before I go.