Date:         Wed, 29 May 1996 10:43:38 -0500
From: Marty Rosen 
Subject:      Walden donned
To: Multiple recipients of list WORDS-L 


I don't have two years and two months to replicate Thoreau's
Walden experience, and even if I did, I probably couldn't get permission
to build a cabin, and even if I could, it would probably take me years to
get the environmental impact study completed, and even if I did, the
first time I went to piss against the same tree Thoreau used, the local
constabulary would probably bust me for desecrating sacred ground.

Still, I was ready to go into the woods, and even a steady spring rain
would not deter me.  First stop: The Shoppe at Walden Pond (I really think
it would be classier if it were The Shoppe at Walden Ponde, but in the
interest of accuracy, I'll keep it just as it was).  The Shoppe has lots
of cool merchandise that ties in with the Walden theme.  Tee-shirts that
say "Beware of any enterprise that requires new clothes."  Thoreau walking
sticks. Thoreau baseball caps.  Thoreau blank books.  Thoreau ballpoint
pens.  Thoreau bookmarks. Various Thoreau sauntering accessories.  I
looked around for the Mortal Walden video game, but they were out.

Thoreau apparently wasn't a clotheshorse, and who knows, maybe that's why
nobody much cared when he decided to go live in the woods for a couple of
years?  Still, it was raining, and I was glad I had indeed prepared for
this enterprise by selecting an entire new wardrobe: waterproof hiking
footwear (L.L. Bean, 119.95); insulated leggings, (Campmor, 44.95); a deep
green moleskin shirt (J. Peterman, 199.95--"Remember the night of the
Banner mine explosion?  If the shotman had been wearing moleskin instead
of wool, maybe he wouldn't have dragged his feet; maybe he wouldn't have
build up that static charge; maybe those 89 men would still be alive.  In
this mysterious shirt you'll spark some interest while sitting on the
veranda drinking scotch straight up.  Who knows?  Maybe you'll get to go
into the shaft."); and to top it all off, a light green goretex (tm) rain
parka (Eddie Bauer, 109.95, guaranteed to breathe with you and without

Coutured thusly, and amply safe from the elements, I nevertheless lingered
around the Shoppe, if only to ensure that when it at last came time for
the Shoppe to close I would not discover that I had not, in fact,
shopped.  Eventually, though, it came time to saunter forth.  I walked
first along the eastern side of the Pond, observing the splashes of rain
falling about a solitary duck, noting the majestic interaction of flora and
fauna (many times, a careful examination will reveal that bugs live among
the plants!  I wonder if Thoreau ever noticed that?).

I was eager to taste fully of the Walden experience, and from earlier
reading I knew this passage from Donald Worster's _Nature's Economy_:
"This intimate knowledge came not only through sinking to the muskrat
level of perception but also in putting as much of nature's variety into
his stomach as he could.  In March 1859 Thoreau wrote: 'I felt that I
could eat the very crust of the earth; I never felt so terrene, never
sympathized so much with the surface of the earth.'  That sympathy should
require much tasting and digesting, real and figurative, was axiomatic to
Thoreau's studies.  He would not be a 'mealy-mouthed' nature lover,
approaching the world gingerly--afraid to bite hard, to crack the shell,
and so to taste the rich flavor of its nutmeat.  Huckleberries, sassafras
roots, birch sap, wild apples, acorns--all went into his experimental
craw.  He would even threaten to devour a wooodchuck raw, hoping thus to
get some of its wild nature into his own system and to fortify his animal
self.  No naturalist or ecologist has been more intent on knowing nature
by his teeth, tongue, and intestines--on engorging nature into the self
as well as merging the self in nature."

Inspired by that passage, how could I escape the temptation to sample my
surroundings?  I picked carefully from among the ferns and flowers,
nibbling here and there, chewing on stems and leaves.  I even chewed up a
hunk of topsoil ("hmmmm-tastes like chicken," I thought), and finally
scooped up a handful of fresh pond water to wash it all down (as smooth
as Evian--i wonder why they don't sell bottled Walden Water at the
Shoppe?).  In the fullness of time, I came to the old cabin site, on a
gently sloping hillside slightly north of the pond, overlooking its
length.  For years, pilgrims to the site have brought along rocks and
stones, sometimes with their initials carved or painted on, and have now
built a fairly large cairn in homage to Thoreau.  "Pish," I thought.
"These feeble stones will soon enough be washed away by the winds and
waters of time."  Fortunately, I had prepared by brining with me a couple
of things I knew might stand as a perpetual monument: a hunk of
votive styrofoam carved from my favorite cooler, and an empty can of
Billy Beer.  I stashed these tenderly under some bohemian's stack of
geodes, then stood and looked out over the pond, appreciating yet again
the deep spiritual flavor of the place.

Fortunately, I'm a quick a study, and it only took me a couple of minutes
to derive the maximum spiritual benefit from the moment and as soon as I
sensed I had reached the point of diminishing spiritual returns, I headed
back.  Besides, it was raining.

Around two thirds of the way around the pond, I suddenly achieved a new
kind of oneness with nature as I began a round of projectile vomiting,
returning to the earth that which I had taken from it in a concise
demonstration of the great circle of existence.  I wonder whether Thoreau
did that?

Finally, I slogged my way back to the parking lot at the Shoppe, doffed
my cap, shook off the rain and mud, changed into a comfortale pair of
driving shoes, and headed back to town, looking at the world with a brand
new perspective, and wondering whether Disney couldn't put a couple of
cool rides around the park, and whether Industrial Light and Magic could
come up with some cool effects to liven up the movie version of _Walden_?
I'm thinking Demi Moore as the love interest who tempts Henry David back
to town, Daniel Day Lewis as the unhappy Thoreau, burned by love, and
Jonathan Taylor Thomas as the young lad who Thoreau rescues from the bear
just before Thoreau renounces the cruelty of nature and settles down to a
cozy domestic house in Concord.