Last week I turned 59. I took the day off from work and made a pilgrimage to Walden Pond. It’s not far from where we live — under an hour’s drive — yet I’d not been there in the 14 years we’ve lived in New England
Henry David Thoreau made the place forever famous when, in 1845, he built a cabin not far from the shore and spent two years living deliberately. His subsequent book, Walden, tells the story of his experience and fueled the spirit of personal independence — marching to the beat of one’s own drummer.
While Walden Pond is bordered by roads and commuter rail tracks today, my walk on the path along the lake was quiet and reflective, seemingly like what Thoreau experienced, although he had to create his own path, no doubt.
My trip to Walden Pond was indeed a pilgrimage: I went for inspiration, to hear the echoes of Thoreau. As my birthdays have slowly yet inexorably brought me to this point in life, my perspective has shifted from a nearly infinite sequence of tomorrows to a limited number of todays. How I spend these days is important. Do I continue to let the river of life carry me along or is it time to pick up my drum and set my own cadence?
For the past three years, I feel I have been on a treadmill, each day a marathon with a faster pace. My days have been filled with meetings and administering the flow of activities among corporate functions. The cartoon I imagine is a little man with an oil can, lubricating a series of interlocking gears. I yearn for time for listening directly to customers, reflection, and strategy formulation, those items that both energize me and where I feel I most contribute to the success of a company.
This treadmill and my dilemma are ending within a couple months, and I need to choose the next path. I know what Henry David Thoreau would say. Do I have the courage to take his advice and blaze an independent trail through the woods? Or should I find a more secure path, one that doesn’t expose my family to the risks of an uncertain future?
Grateful that I have a choice. Anxious about choosing.
Do not worry if you have built your castles in the air. They are where they should be. Now put the foundations under them. — Henry David Thoreau