The other day, I went for a hike around Walden Pond. I went in search of something–I didn’t know what it was, but I felt that I would find it there, as Thoreau once did. So, without understanding exactly what I went for, I travelled down to Concord, MA. Like the average citizen, I drove down the highway, got confused at the various stop signs in the unfamiliar territory, and made my way to the reservation.
Once I parked my car, I threw on my backpack, filled only with a water bottle and a granola bar, and began my walk. I guess in a sense I was searching for some sort of epiphany. That all at once, I would suddenly understand the mystery found in nature. Instead, I found myself listening to my own breath as I walked down the path before me. I found myself paying attention to the way the trees grew and the way the wind blew, and let my thoughts circulate. Before long, I realized that I was not searching for an epiphany, or an answer of any sort.
Instead, I found quiet, and in that quietness I found tranquility and a peaceful ambivalence. Once I allowed myself to feel-I allowed myself to be overwhelmed by my own emotions rather than consumed by my own thoughts. I understood in this moment that the quietness within me, which was begging to escape, could finally be released in an environment that echoed the same sense of silence. At once, I knew that what I was searching for, was nothing at all. While I walked, I let the strength of the trees become me. I let the ripples in the water reflect the change in my life. I let the path guide me.
When I reached Thoreau’s cabin site, I was glad to see the foundation of his chimney. I was amazed when I stood within the perimeter of the building and look out what would have been where his front door was. To my surprise, there was nothing spectacular or amazing about the view. The view, nonetheless beautiful, was nothing out of the ordinary. But to him, to Thoreau, what he saw was special because it moved him on a personal level.
The walk around Walden Pond did not change me, but rather help me understand. It helped me understand myself, Thoreau, and nature. In my own solitude, I found relief from the chaotic environment I find myself in daily. I was glad to be alone, for although no one was with me, I had company in my own thoughts.
When I walked through the woods, I found a sense of belonging and acceptance. When I walked through the woods, I was comfortable. When I walked through the woods, I wondered if Thoreau had walked the same path I had. When I walked through the woods, I became more aware of my own essence.
And, when it came time to walk out of the woods, I took a deep breath and stepped forward into the wilderness outside of the wild.