Furnishing Walden a chair a bed a desk The desk came first in 1838 as it became apparent that the hours afoot would be brought here where they could be inked into lines that would circumscribe worlds - local paths, thickets, swamps, birds, insects, plants, the odd groundhog - all these ligaments and lineaments, a sort of puritan golem who would stir drafts later and one by one readers would walk out and be saved for a day and the next day each would saunter out again along those lines and every so often one would not return. He saw so far forward, you wonder if he lived in his world, but then you see him sprawled on the young ice inching out, reading the worm-trail of history in the mud the whole lens of coming winter flexing beneath him and you know from the seep of cold that he was there, and you know now know how you should live. You push back the chair and rock for a moment on the rockers he attached to allow for just this and you turn like a leaf in fall contemplative; it is, this walking motion, the birth of thought its pod opening like last year’s milkweed, its heart-shaped seeds suspended beneath the wisp of white sail as they float forth. All night long on the modified Chinese sedan that is your bed, its rattan hand holding you up, you dream and the small night animals in this patch of borrowed woodland say that you sleep and awaken everywhere at home.
Author Archives: Sandy Stott
…even as the eagle drives her young at last from the neighborhood of her eyrie, — for their own good, since there is not food enough there for all…Thoreau, Journal, 3/22/61
As we draw near these duck-broods, a conversational cluck-talk suddenly morphs into squawking concern – every duck’s talking at once, and they have begun to hurry this way and that. Are we cause? In our three small boats do we appear to be duck-doom? Ah, no…something else is near.
Also amply fed in this season of plenty, an eagle wheels above the now-panicked covey of ducks, who – it must be said – have had a prolific breeding season. There may be 10 adult ducks in this flotilla 50 or so, and seconds ago one of them has set up the alarm, but now much of the cacophony rises from fuzzy brown ducklings, who seem suddenly to have adopted the random movements of a moth when a bat flies near. The orderly little files of ducks that had been paddling serenely out of our boats’ path have become a hurried scatter of flurried (flightless) wings and webbed feet scratching for water-traction.
The eagle, some twenty feet off the deck, nears, and wherever it veers, 20 ducks dive. Little explosions of spray show where they’ve gone under; their disappearances are audible, like so many small stones raining down. Now, the eagle flares wings, then drops, talons extended, splashing down like an off-kilter parachute, perhaps right atop one of the swimming brown streaks. But it is a mostly graceless attempt, followed by a labored rowing of wings on the water to get – finally, with empty claws – airborne again. All this work, the eagle’s affect seems to say. But once soaring again, the bird’s menace returns, eliciting more squawked protest and more darting in all directions.
After a minute of circling, the eagle appears to tire and wings off to perch in a white pine hundreds of yards away; once there, he vanishes from our sight, and we look back to the ducks, who have begun to gather again into their usual softly chuckling conversations. Then – ALARUM! a gabble of cluck-squawks! Who spotted the eagle is unclear, but well before he arrives to search again in circles for a slow duck, fowl consternation rises and the webbed feet flurry. There must be a lookout duck in the group; does every covey have its lookout? More little geysers of spray as they dive – it is as if they have all drilled for this moment, though they also pop back up quickly enough to suggest that a forward-looking eagle should be able to nab one as he or she emerges. But no, there’s no more awkward eagle-diving, only circling, which goes on for another long minute before its time for another pine rest.
And then, a minute or so later, the eagle leaves, flying upcoast for, who knows? – dumber ducks, slow fish, perhaps an attempt to shakedown a more efficient osprey, who, unlike our eagle, dives often and comes up with food sometimes.
But for three minutes we have been admitted to an avian theater with three, floating front-row seats.
Note: I’ve posted this piece once before, on July 4th of last year, and so a second posting makes a bit of a tradition of it. Happy dependence day!
Two years, two months, two days.
Henry Thoreau was wary of symbols
thoughts and things that go two
by two into the ark of the mind.
And when he took time off, absconded
with it to the pond on July 4th,
1845, he scoffed at those who saw
declaration of independence, in truth
he might have said, I am more
dependent than ever, on this pond
on this earth, on these feet, not
to mention the sky that shines
in the water, a medium really
for seeing up and down, for
seeing two ways at once, a unity
upon which I row my boat and
in which I bathe every day.