On Walden Pond

Thoreau's Walden had a profound impact on me when I first read it nearly forty years ago. Here is a brief article from Front Porch Republic which reflects on Walden's enduring pull on our inner compasses. .


Thoreau became attached to the natural world, but he was no hermit, as many historians will attest. He entertained guests and took frequent trips into town during his two years spent living in his small, self-built cabin on Walden Pond, just a short distance from Concord. So it would seem, for Thoreau, retreat was not about isolation, or the cultivation of any reserved, antisocial behavior. Instead, Thoreau’s simple living and contemplation of the world’s natural beauty was more an effort of re-orientation; of fixing the compass needle of his life on something purer, more permanent, and worthy of his attention, than the social, political, and industrial upheaval of the time.

“Sometimes, having had a surfeit of human society and gossip, and worn out all my village friends, I rambled still farther westward than I habitually dwell, into yet more unfrequented parts of the town, ‘to fresh woods and pastures new …’” (Walden, “The Ponds”)

Thoreau rightly recognized that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” and so, he sought to “live deliberately” and confront “only the essential facts of life.” Years after it provided a backdrop for Thoreau’s experiment of deliberate living, Walden Pond continues to inspire not just writers, nature-lovers, and transcendental philosophers, but its clear waters and tree-lined banks invite any visitor to drink deeply from a well of natural beauty more permanent, effervescent, and pure than the myriad concerns that regularly hijack our consciousness.