If we respected only what is inevitable and has a right to be, music and poetry would resound along the streets. When we are unhurried and wise, we perceive that only great and worthy things have any permanent and absolute existence, that petty fears and petty pleasures are but the shadow of the reality. This is always exhilarating and sublime.
Maybe already I know more people dead than living, that is, for many years, maybe still, dead artists meant more to me than many living people I knew: Emily Dickinson, Thoreau. I left stones on Thoreau’s house-spot, as people do.
I had a paperback copy of Walden and it had green trees on the cover (surprise) and when I borrowed my dad’s car and I drove home from school it would fall off the dashboard over and over again until I would say, “I’m not going to pick Thoreau up again,” and I thought that was funny.
My computer teacher at school would always let me read Thoreau after I had sped through the lesson. Important skills in computer programs that would shortly not exist. Well. I learned about spreadsheets.
We had a hard time finding Walden Pond, there was one sign on a country road. This was before electronics when I was twenty, we barely had a map. We drove back and forth until we were frustrated and we saw the stupid tiny sign that made it look like America didn’t even care about her greatest thinkers.
I got to walk around the pond, I was wearing a white eyelet lace button-up, short sleeved shirt, 501s I bought from the neighbor across the street who although he was short had a British accent and I thought he was sexy, I went to his garage sale, I also wore sensible shoes. I know this because I like the photo so much, of me digging up my rocks, there is a real rock shortage there.
I felt satisfied having been to Walden Pond. Regular people played in the water. There were floating buoys to rope off a swimming area. It was like people cutting their toenails in church.
I went to the park. That is, generally, enough nature for me. Thoreau was only two miles from civilization himself. Franklin Park, which has this mystical circular shape, the roads bend around it, you can see everything from everywhere, especially the baseball diamond, late at night, or the park where all the civic armature of Prairie Village is, a picnic table amongst City Hall, the public pool, the water tower that says the name of our high school mascot. There were leaves there on trees, and that was always enough for me, walking home, when I didn’t have the borrowed car, when I was seventeen, and I knew seventeen would be special for me, that in some way, I would always check in with myself at seventeen to judge if I was doing all right. I am.
Image: Putting Up Posters, Lil Tschudi, Metropolitan Museum of Art.