Those who can

IMG_8489It would be pretty easy to start and end my day focusing on all that is negative in the world. It is everywhere, whether I look for it or not.

I could also imagine that I am a force for only “good,” but I know that I have the capacity for both the dark and the light. I do not necessarily think of this as a bad thing but more of an opportunity. What I am beginning to understand with more and more clarity is that I have several opportunities each and every day to choose which path I prefer to follow.

There has been a wave of heat over the past couple of weeks in the Northeast region of the United States, which has kept the water and air warmer than usual. Thus, I have continued my weekly forays walking along the pond trail at Walden and swimming in the clear water.

Recently, my dad has been joining me for the walking portion and exploring the shore while I swim.

As we rounded a corner close to my favorite spot, we noticed something different in the water. There is a place near the shore where two pieces of wood break through the surface. I pointed to them to show my dad where someone or some thing had placed two large rocks. Upon the smaller and lighter of the two rocks was set a small, light blue marble with white and pastel blue swirling patterns on the inside.


It was beautiful. People walking and swimming by stopped to look at it and wonder over its construction. The light shining off of the water added to the subtle yet breathtaking presence it created simply by being.

After taking many photographs, we carried on walking along the shore, admiring rocks and feathers along the way.

I swam out on my usual path. As I was approaching the final stretch, my dad pointed out to the place where the two rocks had been. Only one remained. The wind had picked up, so I assumed one had simply fallen from its delicate perch.

I arrived at the shore, walked out of the water, shivered and reached for my towel.

Did the wind knock it over? I asked. The wind really picked up.

No, my dad said. Did you see him? he asked.

See who?

The man in the blue canoe with the yellow paddles?

No, I replied. Well, maybe. I think I did.

He went by and just knocked it over with his paddle.

Seriously? How nasty.

It really way. It reminded me of an 8-year-old child. Something a little boy would do.

That is so sad. I wonder what kind of unhappy existence he lives in that would cause him to do such a thing? I mused.

I guess we have witnessed both the good and bad in our species.

As I spoke, I knew that had I made different choices in my own life, I could easily have felt the desire to take out my own frustrations and resentment on that fragile construction. I could have chosen to be a victim to the world and its whims.

It was a good reminder that I never want to live that way.


Of course, who can say what was happening for that individual person. I hope it was a whim or maybe a desire to keep a less human ambiance about the pond.

I will never know.

I did take the marble. I hesitated.

Do you think it would be ok if I take it? I had asked my dad.

What do you think?

I think sometimes things want to travel and sometimes they want to be still.

Will I create bad karma if I take it?

I don’t think so.

In the end, I decided the fairies had left it for me. A gift from the pond to remember it by.

Of course, that is the story I created. The most beautiful gifts are the ones that become a memory.IMG_8547


4 thoughts on “Those who can

  1. My original assumption about the paddler was that knowing there was already a place at the pond for cairns he felt the pond itself should remain untouched.

    A bit from a piece I am writing which reflects my thoughts on taking the marble and whether things want to travel or stay still:

    “The basement is full of stuff moved from my parents place and I find myself dreaming about my parents’ house, I dreamed of being back in that shop/laundry room and not having the time to do the job properly. It brought my own mortality to mind. I was surrounded by the things that my father had collected over the years and were important to him, but that importance was undefined.

    I realized that the things that mattered to me, that meant something to me would also be lost one day; that box that held an object just right, that perfect stone found on a perfect summer day, that favorite screwdriver. They would all be meaningless to anyone else. We don’t bury our dead with their things anymore, a custom that many ancient peoples practiced. They recognized the parts of a person’s personality that lived outside of them, the parts of their soul reflected in their prized possessions, the minute bits of the universe that they came in contact with and recognized as parts of themselves.

    Nostalgia is the reason I keep the favorite matchbox car. But is it the vivid memory of afternoon races on bright orange plastic tracks or the incomprehensible connections between atoms that once burned together in the heart of a star? Does the rock feel good and right in my hand because nature has worn it smooth over a brief eon or two or because the atoms in my skin and muscles and bones resonate with their former brothers, now locked in an inflexible pattern?”

    1. Thanks for sharing this thoughtfulness piece, Jim. When my dad told me about the canoe goer, I had also been reminded of people I knew when I lived in Washington state on the edge of the wilderness. Some had boasted that when they saw cairns in the alpine, they would purposefully knock them over in order to keep the area “wild.” I think there is wildness everywhere, and we are a part of it. Our wild inner selves may be oft tamed by our cultural and social training, but it is there. I am grateful that we are each unique. Each person that observed the rocks atop the branches was clearly moved in a different way. A woman swimming by stayed near it long after my dad and I continued our walk. These pieces I witness at Walden fill my heart with hope that there is still time for our wild selves to be freed from restrictive decorum. I understand the desire to keep things untamed and untrammeled, yet I do not image Walden as a place free from the impact of people by any stretch.

      1. Right? I’d say that if there were people around to both build and knock down cairns that the area might not be as wild as some would either imagine or like it to be. After all, living at the edge of the wilderness tends to be the thing that encourages more encroachment on the wilderness.

        I agree with you that there are always ways to be more in tune with nature no matter one’s location.

  2. I know I’ve probably mentioned to everybody by now that I’m a cynical optimist. Yes, there is such a thing. We are the people who say “It probably won’t work, but let’s try it anyway”. And with this I give you my thoughts: if that guy thought by knocking down the cairn he was bringing it back to Walden’s wild, then I have news for him: Walden is far from wild. A lot of the trails around it are tainted with wired fencing which is just horrible. And there is a hulking walkway ascending up into a parking lot overlooking it. Walden Pond is as “wild” as much of Central Park is wild. And I don’t meant that in a bad way, necessarily. If you’ve been to Central Park, it’s actually a great place to get away. While it may be a heavily regulated and controlled area that is branded “Wild™”, people still do go to places like Central Park and Walden Pond to get away and think about things, to balance out things in life. Nature and mind coming together is important for many. That cairn there was an expression of the mind, an expression of the need for balance, and Walden Pond and what it means to people might be the perfect expression of that balance. And whoever knocked it over was a pessimist.

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