A block down the street from my apartment there are two ponds that have blessed me with endless enjoyment and I sit by them, watch the wind-blown water ripple and hope for turtles to surface.
Ducks drop in from time-to-time but they steer clear of me after doing a little aerial surveillance. A frog sticking its periscope peepers above the surface or jumping from the bank into the water is about as exciting as things get around Dharma Pond. But I’m content to see what I see.
“An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day,” Henry David Thoreau wrote long ago.
The majority of my walks are early in the morning and it was on a return trip from the beach that I stopped for a little mindfulness meditation on the pond’s banks. I was in a holding pattern when an egret flew in for breakfast. It landed smoothly 30 feet from me, tilting its wings and then holding them in fixed position to slow down it’s descent. Mighty graceful for a bird gawky in appearance.
Luckily I had my digital camera with me. I raised it slowly from my side, took a few photographs and resumed enjoying the moment. I was hoping the egret would safisfy its appetite, perhaps enjoy a buffet, but it wasn’t to be. Not wanting to unnerve it, I rose and slowly backed away. It stalked beneath vegetated pond drapery during my retreat.
Many moons ago a college professor assigned my class to read Thoreau’s “Walden” and “Civil Disobedience,” also known as “Life in the Woods” and “Resistance to Civil Government” respectively. I didn’t know at that moment how fortunate I was.
My idea of reading then was scanning through “Sport’s Illustrated,” absorbing “Mad” magazine and gobbling up the giddiness of “Reader’s Digest.”
Occasionally I’d pick up a book, but the scope of my preferred reading list was limited in range. Early horror classics by Stephen King. Erich Von Däniken’s ode to ancient astronauts, “Chariots of the Gods?” I was also fascinated by paranormal phenomena stuff like “The Bermuda Triangle,” written by Charles Berlitz, and by the science fiction of Andre Norton, “Daybreak 2250 A.D.,” and Larry Niven, “Lucifer’s Hammer.”
Out of defiance and a double-dose of ignorance, I’d chosen to resist the prodding of my high school English teachers, forgoing all but a few of the classics of literature. Ernest Hemingway’s, “The Old Man and the Sea,” was one of the exceptions. Shakespeare? Pfft. What did he know? “Hi, my name is Rob and I, uh, I’m an idiot.” “Hi Rob.” “When did you last succumb to idioacy?” the pack-of-idiots leader asked. “Um, what time is it?”
Thoreau’s writing was different. It spoke to my very nature. I’ve always been one to immerse myself in the outdoors while keeping my fingers on the pulse of society. Oddly, the noted transcendalist’s meditations on solitude gave me a sense of belonging. But I don’t want to make too much of his solo trips into the wild. Like me, he enjoyed company. But I can’t say that I have Ralph Waldo Emerson or Nathanial Hawthorne visiting me. Well, I could, but they’ve been dead for quite awhile. Ouija, anyone?
Thoreau’s take on civil disobedience influenced me greatly. Proof rests within my infamous rants. I used the term infamous because some people have characterized my legitimate social and political commentary as negative. People read what they want to read and see what they want to see.
I see things, for the most part, the way Thoreau saw them. But I’d pass on the woodchuck unless I was hungrier than a cannibal in a mosh pit. He felt individuals shouldn’t allow government to overrule or atrophy their consciences. It’s my civic duty, especially so as a journalist, to speak up when government oversteps its bounds or fails to act responsibly. Otherwise, I’d be an agent of injustice. I’ll let local media handle the public relations. They’re good at it.
I’d suggest to many of my fellow journalists that they need to find themselves a pond and do some reflecting. A little soul searching never hurt anyone.
(Bum’s rap: I was reminded when writing this blog of an incident from back in my newspaper days. The owner of a small local business burst through the front door of our office and went off on one of my co-workers about a story I’d written. He’d been charged and convicted of hitting someone in the head with a beer bottle. I heard the mayhem and greeted our guest. “Is the story factually incorrect?” I asked. “No, but..” His rant continued until I pointed to the doorway ten feet behind him. Something tells me he’s still attending Idiots Anonymous gatherings. Some people read what they want to read. Others can’t handle the truth.