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My Day at the Pond
by Robert J. Gregory

As a boy, I read, then re-read Henry Thoreau's book, Walden Pond. To leave behind the everyday world, seek out a tranquil spot in nature, and live there for a year became my dream. "How could he do that?" I asked myself, and then I asked others. But no one had a reply, for they were all hurrying here and there, working or playing in the non-natural environments of our so-called advanced civilization. The dream gathered strength though, but I found myself caught up in that world of more and more education, then a busy career, and beginning a family, and ever increasing daily work, and watching the daily news. But I knew, deep in my heart, that one day, I would, as they say, "just do it."

Alas, the years passed by, and what with children, and then with their education, and then with their ventures into the work world and . . . well, one day, life became just a bit too much. I decided that Henry Thoreau was right - we have to just get out there and do, rather than wait for the right time.

In the end, I did it. But, I had only one full day. I decided that this one day would be my day for a retreat, with no one else, no worries, no nothing! The spot was easy, for I had inherited the family farm in upstate New York. My mother had grown up on that farm, but when WWII came, all her brothers had to go off to war, and the responsibilities were too much for my grandparents. The farm was sold, but then, in 1953, my parents bought the farm and I grew up there. I treasured the legends, stories, tall tales, and memories I inherited from those in preceding generations and from neighbors. Even more, I respected my mother's achievement, for she convinced the Conservation Department to pay for her dream, a pond built just beyond the barn.

Over the years, that pond became the focal point for relatives, friends, sojourners, and all sorts of animals, plants, fishes, and more. Kids came to go fishing, adults to sit and talk, and neighbors to rest a while. What better place?

My time had come, and I woke before dawn. I dressed warmly for it was spring, and ate some breakfast. I made and packed myself a lunch, and set forth with nothing else. I did not want to be disturbed by books, chairs, water jugs, or anything that would take away from the experience.

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I walked silently to the pond, and found a place on the edge to sit, and I watched the stars fade. A light wind created pretty ripples on the water, and I saw the glimmer of those stars, perhaps a planet as well, on the water. The dawn came slowly, and the sky lit up with a touch of crimson, while the birds sang their wake-up calls. And the sun cast a warm caress, while I meditated.

All day I sat there, stopping only to walk slowly around the pond every couple of hours. I noted the varied animals, including a turtle, a muskrat, a couple of garter snakes, and a small lizard. I listened to and watched the birds, including a bright red cardinal, a happy blue jay, a kingfisher, and a hummingbird, among others. In the afternoon, I ate my lunch, quietly and peacefully. It is possible that I even took a short nap, but I was in that state where you are not really sure you are asleep or awake. While I was hidden in the grasses and clover and trees sheltering the pond, a large hawk flew so close I could almost reach out and touch her as she tried but failed to catch a red winged blackbird. Late in the day, a doe brought her new born fawn to the far end of the pond to drink, and they kept a wary eye out for predators, but I guess I fit right in, for they ignored or didn't even see me.

My own thoughts began, towards the end of that magical day, to relax. Just as the ripples on the pond flattened out when the wind dropped, so too, my own thinking, and then my feelings, began to calm. Henry Thoreau came into my thoughts - what a magnificent precedent he set, a challenge so powerful that many, many years later, I just had to respond. And quite naturally, I resolved that again, on another day, I would repeat that exercise. Perhaps I would even extend my visit for several days.

As the darkness emerged from the surrounding trees, and the sun set, I marvelled at how deeply inward I had looked, thinking about the things that mattered to me, and about the environment, and about the meaning of it all. I still picture that pond, although I live half way around the world from it now. In fact, that day still ranks as one of the best in my entire life. I urge others to read Walden Pond, and to go forth and try it, even if they have but one day.

Pacific Means Peace
Robert J. Gregory
School of Psychology - Te Kura Hinengaro Tangata
Massey University, Palmerston North, NEW ZEALAND

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