Read Thoreau: Walden is a Perfect Forest Mirror

In such a day, in September or October, Walden is a perfect forest mirror, set round with stones as precious to my eye as if fewer or rarer. Nothing so fair, so pure, and at the same time so large, as a lake, perchance, lies on the surface of the earth. Sky water. It needs no fence. Nations come and go without defiling it. It is a mirror which no stone can crack, whose quicksilver will never wear off, whose gilding Nature continually repairs; no storms, no dust, can dim its surface ever fresh; —a mirror in which all impurity presented to it sinks, swept and dusted by the sun’s hazy brush,—this the light-dust cloth,—which retains no breath that is breathed on it, but sends its own to float as clouds high above its surface, and be reflected in its bosom still.

A field of water betrays the spirit that is in the air. It is continually receiving new life and motion from above. It is intermediate in its nature between land and sky. On land only the grass and trees wave, but the water itself is rippled by the wind. I see where the breeze dashes across it by the streaks or flakes of light. It is remarkable that we can look down on its surface. We shall, perhaps, look down thus on the surface of air at length, and mark where a still subtler spirit sweeps over it….

….It struck me again tonight, as if I had not seen it almost daily for more than twenty years — Why, here is Walden, the same woodland lake that I discovered so many years ago; where a forest was cut down last winter another is springing up by its shore as lustily as ever; the same thought is welling up to its surface that was then; it is the same liquid joy and happiness to itself and its Maker, ay, and it may be to me.

From Walden Chapter 9 “The Ponds”

For Discussion and Journaling:

  • Thoreau refers to Walden Pond as a mirror. In what ways does it – and nature in general – serve as a mirror?
  • Thoreau’s skills as a writer are clearly at work in this passage. How does art – writing, stories, music, painting, etc. – help “conserve” nature? Do you think Walden Pond would still exist today if Thoreau hadn’t written about it so eloquently?
  • Walden was well-known to Thoreau. He grew up nearby and spent many hours walking there. Do you think it is significant that he finds “liquid joy” in a place so close to home?
  • Do you have a place, outside in nature, which serves as your “mirror” or brings you joy? How has this place influenced your view of the environment and your environmental ethic?
  • How much time do you spend outside, experiencing nature? Is this important to you?