I went to Boston at the end of October with my parents and one of my brothers. While I was there, I was able to convince everyone to take a commuter rail out to Concord, Massachusetts. Destination: Walden.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the place of literary fame, let me explain. In 1845, transcendentalist writer Henry David Thoreau built a cabin in the woods near Walden Pond on land owned by his friend, mentor, and fellow author, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Though in the midst of the woods, and completely engulfed in tranquility, the house was just a few miles from his hometown of Concord.
He lived in the tiny cabin for two years, two months, and two days. In that time, he began work on what would later be published as Walden or sometimes Life in the Woods with the famous line that begins, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately…”
The entire premise of his trip into the woods was to live simply and while he didn’t bar himself from visitors, he did distance himself from society in order to connect with nature, a major component of transcendentalist philosophy.
I have always had a humbling reverence for Thoreau, Emerson, and their peers and for that reason I was so determined to see the place of storybook fame.
On Monday morning, we woke up in a hotel, my parents, brother and I. It was our first day in Boston and we were determined to make the most of it. After a free continental breakfast and some arguing over the thermostat in the room, we were finally off. New to the city, we set on the Freedom Trail, a comprehensive tour of all the major historic sites in Boston. Our first stop was Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, a cemetery dating back to 1659. It was unbelievable to see the stones that were still standing despite weathering and cracking. The carving on the tombs was impressive to say the least. We stopped at places like the Site of the Boston Massacre and Paul Revere’s House, taking in all the history we could see. Our last stop was Boston Common, America’s oldest public park, having opened in 1634.
Upon completing the trail, I made my proposal. Walden or bust. It was with that kind of persuasion that I had everyone pile onto the train for the half hour trip to Concord.
When we arrive at the station, I warned, it’s going to be a 2 mile walk to the park and it’s not necessarily on sidewalks. Nobody seemed phased…that was, until we were walking on said road with no sidewalks.
Nonetheless, we eventually made it into Walden Woods. It was beautiful. Everything about New England in the fall feels like a fresh drop of apple cider. The trees were clinging to their leaves and the sky hadn’t a cloud in it. It was the perfect adventure.
We followed the wooded path down to the main beach and suddenly I looked up and realized where I was. This was Walden. To say the view is stunning would be like saying the sunshine is warm. That being said, the view is stunning.
The water was clear, the sky was new, and all was right with the Universe.
I pulled out the smile sign that I’m accustomed to taking with me most places I go and passed my camera to my brother. Take a picture, would ya?
I backed up against the pond, held my sign, and grinned. After he snapped the photo, he returned the camera and I looked at it. First, this is out of character for me. Most of the time, my travel photography consists of taking the picture as I’m walking and hoping it looks good later. But, for some reason or other, I looked at it.
Wow, my hair’s a mess. Take another.
Second, also out of character. My hair is constantly a mess. Even on days when I try to control it, it’s still a mess, but especially on days when I’ve spent hours walking and exploring and climbing through the woods. Yes, my hair was a mess.
Your hair doesn’t even matter. That’s not the point of the picture.
My brother snapped me right back into reality. Why was I concerned how my hair looked and especially why did it matter when I was standing at a place of such profound beauty where Thoreau came to practice simplicity.
He was exactly right. It was over a year ago that I posted this blog about beauty. And with the click of a button I shifted everything I knew about being okay with self-image to someone who takes multiple photos in an attempt to get that perfect shot…all at a place of modest living and natural habitation.
I stuffed my camera back into my bag and walked back to the pond, cupping my hands in the cool water and letting it splash gently back into its home. I plucked a rock from below the surface and skimmed it across the smooth skin of its top.
It didn’t matter that we had been walking for hours or that I had taken my family on a cross high-way adventure or that my hair was a little unruly.
Walden is beautiful. And so is messy hair.
For more information on Walden or the Freedom Trail, visit: