this is fresh water

This is Part I of my trip to Walden Pond.

This is what Thoreau had to say about Walden Pond:
"The scenery of Walden is on a humble scale, and, though very beautiful, does not approach to grandeur, nor can it much concern one who has not long frequented it or lived by its shore; yet this pond is so remarkable for its depth and purity as to merit a particular description. It is a clear and deep green well, half a mile long and a mile and three quarters in circumference, and contains about sixty-one and a half acres; a perennial spring in the midst of pine and oak woods, without any visible inlet or outlet except by the clouds and evaporation. The surrounding hills rise abruptly from the water to the height of forty to eighty feet, though on the southeast and east they attain to about one hundred and one hundred and fifty feet respectively, within a quarter and a third of a mile. They are exclusively woodland."


Imagine my surprise when we arrived at Walden Pond and found this: what looked like a theatrical beach scene out of the 1920s. Loud and colorful and plasticine, the colors of the visitors so disarmingly jarring against the grain of the sands and the green of the woods.


Luckily, that was only the entrance, and as we made our way around the pond, on the dusty trail in the woods, we found more solitude and more nature. There were little pockets of people here and there who had found small openings to jump into the water. It makes sense to walk until you've found a comfortable distance from the main shore, until you've found a space of privacy for a placid dip or swim. Then you can claim Walden Pond for your own. There in your own little swimming hole you can be in nature without reservations and without any disturbances.

And it feels more like the Walden Pond that you imagined. The Walden Pond that Thoreau described.


Having grown up in California, I'm so used to swimming in salt water. Our sandy shores were always on the coast, always at a beach. The ocean always greeted you loudly, with waves crashing onto the sand and white foam spreading onto your feet and then running away as quickly as it came. Even if you weren't in the water swallowed up by the cold, rough waters, you were at the mercies of the salty breeze, which enveloped you and left its residue in your hair, so even when you left, you always brought a little bit of the beach back with you: the sand nestled into your scalp and the salt that crusted the hairs on your arm.

After tiptoeing down rocks and inching into the water, after dunking my head and coming back up for air, I was surprised. Not by the temperature of the water but by the lack of salt. The purity and freshness of water was at once unfamiliar and thrilling. The water was so still and I could see through it, not like the ocean that is dark and white and so powerful it could sweep you away. This was a different kind of power: the quiet resonance of stillness. I felt like I could float on the pond forever, like in a dream, and I felt like the world had stopped and that in the water, everything was timeless. Because I think in some sense, these bodies of water are timeless and the way they make us feel is timeless too.


"Perhaps on that spring morning when Adam and Eve were driven out of Eden Walden Pond was already in existence, and even then breaking up in a gentle spring rain accompanied with mist and a southerly wind, and covered with myriads of ducks and geese, which had not heard of the fall, when still such pure lakes sufficed them. Even then it had commenced to rise and fall, and had clarified its waters and colored them of the hue they now wear, and obtained a patent of Heaven to be the only Walden Pond in the world and distiller of celestial dews. Who knows in how many unremembered nations' literatures this has been the Castalian Fountain? or what nymphs presided over it in the Golden Age? It is a gem of the first water which Concord wears in her coronet."
Henry Thoreau, "The Ponds"