Where is your Walden?

Thoreau believed that we all have our solitary places; places we go to in order to escape a world that closes in on us; a place neither physical nor geographical, but instead mental – a state of mind that exists within all of us and which offers the chance to think and to listen.

Thoreau called his place “Walden” and I’m wondering about what name I might give to my solitary place. Where is it that I take myself to be away from the here and now? Would it be a place like this sand trail through the Pine Barrens? Is that solitary place more about being very present in the moment and separate from memory and its weight? What view in my mind’s eye quiets the thoughts and endless questions from an overactive mind?

There is a place that I feel peace and safety apart from the world, but I don’t know that it’s one that I can photograph. It’s part blue sky and loneliness, the music of water and birdsong, the dazzle of sun and the whisper of wind, and the question of what lies ahead, just around the bend and out of view.

21 thoughts on “Where is your Walden?”

  1. “It’s part blue sky and loneliness, the music of water and birdsong, the dazzle of sun and the whisper of wind, and the question of what lies ahead, just around the bend and out of view.” I know what your place is, Laura! It’s Spring!

  2. -For me it could be one of any number of places.The more I can physically isloate myself from anything reminding me of the daily grind, the better my chances to reach the Walden state of mind.

  3. Your question resonates strongly with me. I struggle to explain my feelings because they are still evolving, but here goes:

    For the past year, I’ve been visiting a local nature preserve regularly and blogging about it. I’m finding that the combination of regular visits, solitude, careful observation of both my surroundings AND my thoughts, and the discipline of writing has indeed created a place in my mind. I can try to find that place by going to the woods, but I also stumble into it unexpectedly. Often, I know I’ve been there because I emerge with something I feel like writing about. I’m beginning to wonder if things like meditation, prayer, runner’s high, vision quest and that Walden state of mind aren’t all related.

  4. I’m with Mary–take me along!

    I love how poetic your posts are. Your description of your place is beautiful. I think the closest place to Walden I have is my backyard, where I can see mowed lawn (to watch bunnies), marsh (with ponds for waterbirds), a lot of open sky (for raptor viewing), and mountains surrounding me on all sides. When Kat’s finished with her degree and we leave this place, most likely headed for a big city, I don’t know how I’ll get over losing my marsh house. I just have to try to enjoy it while I have it.

  5. Pablo: I think you’re lucky to have found your perfect place.

    Cathy: Is that where it is? Where can I find it tonight – they’re predicting up to 6 inches of snow for tomorrow!

    I don’t really know where my place is, but figure if I ramble about it enough here I may figure it out…

    Larry: Yes, but I think sometimes we need to conjure that place in the midst of the daily grind. I’m wondering about the images we see in our minds that bring that place into being when we can’t be there.

    Mary: Will do. You bring the camera, okay?

    Mojoman: I thought of you when writing this actually, because I know through your blog that you’re very much connected to one particular place. I feel like regular visits and careful observation like you mentioned are the instruments to creating a strong sense of place and the peace that comes with remembering and revisitng it.

    Delia: DO enjoy it while you have it! I think it must be very hard to live in a city when you’re a person that’s connected to nature. Maybe I just haven’t had the experience of having to find places that are comfortable for introspection in the middle of all the hustle and bustle of city life. Lots of people love the city and find joy in other ways. Think of it as a journey of discovery!

    Ruth: Yes! Water is important for me too and it should be big water that feels like standing on the edge of the world.

    Lynne: Of course it’s your Hasty Brook – and you’re lucky to have your *own* place. Do you visit in the winter?

    I get this funny sort of feeling about South Jersey; Cape May especially, and mostly when leaving to come home – very sentimental. I don’t know how to describe it really – maybe it’s a lot of memories from growing up and vacations – who knows – but leaving there always makes me feel very sad, like I’m leaving home. Strange! But I guess that is part of why I love it so.

  6. Today, my Walden was the cherry blossoms.

    In general, however, I get it in a redwood forest. There is something about the quality of green light that just soothes my soul. When I’ve been away, I breathe more easily as I return.

  7. I suppose it’s right in my own backyard where I find pure joy in feeding the birds and soaking in the beauty of the blue sky and surrounding ridge.

  8. My “Walden” is without a doubt the woods – any woods – with nobody else around, or maybe one or two close friends who know how to be very quiet in the woods and who can listen and observe with me.

  9. Thanks, Liza! I can only guess what a redwood forest must feel like.

    I love the image of cherry blossoms as your Walden.

    Jayne: Lucky you to *live* in Walden!


    Mary: Another stay at home type, huh? I think it’s wonderful that you’re able to find peace at home, but I tend to be too preoccupied with *stuff* when I’m at home.

    Sandy: Of course it would be!

    Pablo: I’m not really sure what my point was!


    I think you must get into a certain frame of mind when you visit Roundrock that is quite different from the ordinary you – all that obsessing over rocks.

    Naturewoman: Of course you have to be surrounded by trees to be happy! A friend is nice too.

    Kelly: Thanks for saying so.

  10. Hi Laura, I am so proud of your worthwhile work on this site! I read and enjoy your daily posts all the time when I need a break from the grind. In responding to this question about where my ‘Walden’ is it’s pretty hard to sum it up with words alone. I think it has more to do with identifying with a mental image we have in the back of our minds. One such mental image I find myself going back to quite often when I need solitude and peace was conceived while looking out our kitchen window at Daniel Drive on an early Spring morning some years ago and is brought to mind through this poem.
    “A crisp soothing morning breeze,
    blows wild through the tender leaves.
    The Earth rejoices in the light,
    For rain has gone away with night.
    Brids glide with gentle ease,
    They cast their wings into the breeze.
    The final breaths of a springtime storm, that breaks into a crystal morn.
    Have fun, love you, and I’ll be watching. Brian

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