Last week I was pulling books off of my bookshelves in my semi-annual book purge. For some reason when Autumn begins to turn cold with hints of the Winter to come, I find it absolutely necessary to attend every book sale and garage sale in order to stock up on reading material in the event that I am snowed in for weeks at a time and cannot feed my habit. It doesn't matter that, A. I live 3 blocks from the library, B. The longest we've ever been snowed in is two days and, C. I have a Nook and can download books from the library or the online store without leaving home. It just doesn't fill me with the same amount of assurance as the sight of sagging book shelves bursting forth with invitations to hours of delight in the land of imagination.
As I was picking up each title and wondering what had possessed me to buy these in the first place (I already read this last winter, I told myself more than a few times), a book fell off and hit my foot. Ouch! It was a hardcover. I picked it up and turned it over. Walden by Henry David Thoreau. I doubt there are many members of the Baby Boomer Generation that did not find this particular title on their required reading lists in either high school or college. How many of us in the throes of the peace and love movement did not dream of living off the land and turning our backs on the establishment. However, by the time the movement was at it's peak, I was already married and a mother trying to make a go of a bad marriage and a string of bad decisions. However, I never stopped believing that I would find my Walden. Twenty years later, I did. In March 1992 I moved in to the top half of an historic old home in a small village in upstate New York on the banks of a river that had an Indian name a mile long, but which I nicknamed My Walden. For seven beautiful years I had the opportunity to introduce me to myself and to know, finally, who I was.
Sadly, economics forced me out of my nest on the river, jobs in that area being scarce. For the last 15 years I have dreamed of the day when I would retire full time and go home once more to My Walden. Now with that possibility on the horizon, I am asking myself some serious questions: Was it the actual place that soothed my soul and healed me, or was it what I learned there? Is it possible that it was like going away to college where you learn what you need to know and then go out into the world and live it? It would be a big undertaking to once again move myself bag and baggage back to a place where most of my old friends are gone and my family would not be 5 minutes away as they are now, when what I'm really after is the "feeling" of My Walden? Is that something that I can recreate wherever I am?
So I'm wondering what your Walden is? Is it a physical place, or is it a feeling, a knowing, a way of living? Is it something you can take with you wherever you are, or is it who you are? I would really love to know your thoughts on this and your own experiences. In the meantime, I think it would be a perfect way to spend an afternoon if I just made myself a cup of tea and curled up with old Henry David again on the banks of Walden Pond. Maybe by the time I"m done, I'll know the answer.
And so it is.