Tuesday, October 10, 2006

At Walden Pond

Today is Columbus Day, and, while elsewhere Native Americans are mourning this date as the beginning of the genocide of their people, at Walden Pond the beaches and pathways were thronged with tourists celebrating the holiday by communing with Thoreau's nature.

I am in New England to visit my son Luke, to see other friends in New Hampshire and Vermont, and to watch the leaves change color. That won't be easy because the East is in the grip of a heat wave. I packed for cool days and frosty nights, and today the temperature was in the mid 70's, requiring a bathing suit or at least shorts.

Luke is living in Waltham on the outskirts of Boston. Heidi's restaurant where we had breakfast was packed, with prices half what you'd pay at Denny's in Santa Cruz. Many of the customers were Latinos, and walking our meal off along Moody Street I saw shops and restaurants catering to Indians, Thais, Mexicans, El Salvadoreans and Guatemalans. A Spanish language newspaper is published here. We crossed the Charles River which flows down to Cambridge and Boston and along the river before heading back.

While Luke was doing his laundry, I drove over rolling hills and along leafy streets lined with rock walls to Concord and Walden Pond. This was ground zero of the American Revolution. I pictured a tiny body of water and no people. What I got was a large lake surrounded by a state park and crowds filled with hikers, picnickers, runners, families with crying kids, and people speaking a babble of languages. There was a Greek man selling ice cream from a truck (most of the popular choices were sold out) and bathers were sunning on sandy beaches and splashing in the water.

I made the pilgrimage to the site where Thoreau built his cabin. Nothing is left but a memorial, and, beside a sign with a quote from his writing, a pile of rocks. The custom, apparently, is to leave a rock behind and thousands have complied. The view from the cabin site is mostly obscured by trees now (there was more logging in Thoreau's day, and he could see a train across the pond).

Tomorrow I head north, to Keene in southern New Hampshire. On the way I plan to visit Jack Kerouac's grave in Lowell.

No comments: