Going to Walden
by Mary Oliver

It isn’t very far as highways lie.
I might be back by nightfall, having seen
The rough pines, and the stones, and the clear water.
Friends argue that I might be wiser for it.
They do not hear that far-off Yankee whisper:
How dull we grow from hurrying here and there!

Many have gone, and think me half a fool
To miss a day away in the cool country.
Maybe. But in a book I read and cherish,
Going to Walden is not so easy a thing
As a green visit. It is the slow and difficult
Trick of living, and finding it where you are.

When it’s cold outside for days on end and my soul’s had its fill of stark, beautiful white and gray, I tend to turn inward, drawn to cozy corners in the cabin, little still life images that appear in shafts of sunlight, or homely objects still being used today as they were when Grandpa and Grandma lived in Stonecroft. Aunt Anna Lou left Grandma’s Hoosier cabinet for me. “It should stay in Stonecroft.”

She said the same thing about their framed graduation pictures above the fireplace. “Mama said they should never be moved.” I have moved them down a bit on the same wall . . . to the oak dining table. “Albert, Laurence, Anna Lou, and David” still preside over our meals, coffee and dessert chats, and card playing.

The Hoosier cupboard was Grandma’s main kitchen storage until cabinets were built across the kitchen from the cookstove, with a peninsula turning to hold her sink. Dishes were done in a dishpan on the end of the cook stove before that. This sink faces the window to the road . . . the only window on the west side of the cabin. The cabinets have been painted a creamy white many, many times over the years. When I pulled a two-inch chunk of paint off the front of the pull-out bread board—using duct tape to hold my pastry cloth in place—I could see that I would have to fill it with putty before I’d be able to paint it. That’s how many layers there are. The countertops are a bright yellow linoleum, edged with thin stainless strips, unchanged still today.

The cream-and-blue-trimmed Hoosier cupboard sits in the entry porch now, just outside the kitchen, holding my baking supplies and dry staples in its upper cabinets, onions and potatoes in its pull-down bins with rounded tin-lined bottoms.

One morning I was puttering at the sink and remarked to Rex, “Wouldn’t it be fun if this sink faced the lake, instead of the road?” He walked up behind me, put his hands on my waist, and walked me around the narrow, rounded countertop. “There you go.” He’s right, of course, except for the pesky faucet situation.

Actually, I’ve come to appreciate this layout detail. While the lake and mountains on the other side of the cabin fill the east-facing windows, this is my window to the world. Folks going to work and school, morning and evening walkers, delivery trucks and visiting neighbors. I can get lost in my thoughts for days on the other side of the cabin. This window brings me back, urges me out. I decorate it with old plates and my polka-dot rooster standing watch inside. I poke red twigs into the dirt of the empty window boxes outside in fall and winter. Come spring there will be the first apple blossoms and lilacs in a blue jar on the sill, then Shasta Daisies, Peonies, and finally Golden Glow at summer’s end. It seems I mark the turning of each year in this window, for myself and my fellow travelers.

“When we came to Maplehurst, we stood still while the world shifted and each new season made this place new.” Placemaker—Christie Purifoy 

Sometimes it’s the turning inward that I need . . . to find Walden where I am.

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