Every week, I visit Walden Pond. And after each visit, I bring Walden home with me. I bring with me both tangible and intangible, literal and figurative. There are memories—sights, sounds, smells, and touch. There are photographs of favorite trees beneath sun and cloud.
Then, there are those things of a collector spirit—feathers, rocks, and branches of many shapes and sizes.
It is as though they call out to me to pick them up. I often try to walk by and then stop, turn around, and kneel down for a closer look.
This afternoon, I was walking along the stone wall that lines the beginning of the lake trail when I noticed it—a large, round stone with circles spiraling out from the center.
Too big, I thought. No sooner did the thought appear but I found myself kneeling down, jumping from stone wall to sand, and walking to the shore.
I picked it up and turned it around in my head.
“You are too big,” I thought.
“I may be big, but you know you want to bring me home,” it responded. “I am Walden. You could let all other rocks you have found go and keep only me as a reminder of your favorite place in Massachusetts.”
“What? Are you serious? Plus, there are all of these people around.” I still have the NPS rule burned into my psyche to take only pictures and leave only memories or something to that effect. I have seldom successfully followed this tenet. I do not believe that any one thing was meant to stay in one place for all eternity, and rocks of all things are meant to travel.
“Well, it is not like it is your first time,” it seemed to chide. “Come on, you tell yourself every time you pick up a rock that you will remember where you found it. This time, I can assure you that will remember forever.
So, I picked it up, dipped and turned it in the water to scrape off the sand, tucked it under my arm, and carried on.
Halfway around the lake, I found another perfect branch.
“Please don’t be heavy,” I said out loud. It weighed a ton, at least for me. But I picked it up and slung it under my other arm.
A few hundred more feet, and I saw yet another branch. This was one shaped like a wishbone. This was a special branch indeed.
“No more branches, Marieke!” I walked past, arms full and wrists aching.
I walked back, set everything down on the trail, slid beneath the fence and down to the shore. I retrieved by wishing branch, slipped it to rest between the straps of my canvas bag, and walked on once more.
By the time I reached by swimming spot, my arms were burning. It occurred to me that there are likely very few other people as strange as me, so I tucked the heavy branch and rock against the bank to wait for a future visit. Should they still be there, that will be my sign to bring them home.
Swim, swim, swim through the silky layers of warm and cool water.
Return to shore.
Bid adieu to rock and branch.
Leave the pond behind for another week.
I look forward to our next visit, magic place.