Henry David Thoreau recorded his retreat into solitude and nature in his book, Walden. In March, Peter Bachmann invited all community members to share their Walden moment from our current retreat. Below, you’ll find submissions from across the community. If anyone is interested, please submit a paragraph, from 10 to 200 words detailing your Walden moment, to email@example.com.
Walden Moments for May 22
During a frustrating quarantine, few things satisfy the ache of frayed nerves like a good “thwack.”
Certainly, the impact force wringing through clenched fists is a balm to pent up energy. The physical anger soothes the inner beast as only a display of sheer dominance can achieve. Since the time of man, the lust to conquer has been central to order in nature. And this merciless pummeling taps into that primal need.
But the real comfort comes from the sound. The palpable confirmation that aim and force were true. A testimony that the blow achieved the maximum impact. The target was squared. The connection was as vicious as the striker’s intent. The inciter’s lips snarl in a gratified grin as victory plays out in real time.
The red ball connects with perfect geometry to cast off the yellow ball and retain enough momentum to pass through the wicket.
During this safer at home order, the Alvarez front yard has been transformed to the pinnacle of sporting grounds worthy of conferment by the All England Croquet Club. On cool evenings as the setting sun casts its purple glow across the San Gabriels, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, and The Andrew Sisters (compliments of the 1940s channel on satellite radio) provide the setting for a civilized contest whose roots date back to 1850.
But in a family whose allegiance to the sport of baseball extends to the naming of their children, a game whose fundamentals call for hitting a ball with a stick was destined to devolve into an ungraceful show of force. Sibling rivalry and parent pride converge for a high-spirited, ruthless display that has jarred more than a few neighbors out with their dogs for a quiet evening stroll. The bellows of victory, or more often, dramatic narrow misses are sharp contrast to the dulcet rendition of Dorothy Lamour’s “Moon over Burma” wafting from the outdoor speakers. Deference to the youngest and chivalry for the female competitor fall victim to competitive drive. After all, bragging rights on are the line.
It is not pretty. But it is many other things. Outdoor, low-tech, strength, and finesse—and most of all, an activity that brings us all together. It reminds us that our real needs are much simpler than we had allowed ourselves to believe. And that joy requires little more than eager participation. So, in the end, who can deny the healing power the flows from the simple execution of a well-placed “thwack.”
Syd Smith, parent of Max Alvarez ’20 and Zach Alvarez ’23
“We should impart our courage, and not our despair, our health and ease, and not our disease, and take care that this does not spread by contagion.” —Walden
I have fortunately continued working at full tilt during this interesting time in history—working on treating the injured first responders and front-line workers. All the folks out harvesting our vegetables, delivering all of our food and wares, rescuing us from fires and danger, keeping our streets safe, caring for our elders, triaging the sick, distributing social services, cleaning our streets and picking up our garbage—the list is endless. I am blessed with a special point of view. I get to see the grit and courage in their eyes and experience the bravery in their hearts. Sometimes it is mixed with frustration and anger—but they don’t flinch from their responsibility. They have courage in the face of trying times. They just keep showing up for you and me and for themselves. These times will pass, and we are left with the guts of who we are and what we stand for in our lives. May we stand for our family, our friends, our peers, our neighbors, our good health, and our joyful prosperity. I take deep breaths with my patients and enjoy the moment, for we are experiencing all that is great about living in the human community. Let us trust our strengths and let drift away the fear and uncertainty. There is nothing uncertain about who we are. We are amazing, wise and strong. Like water, we will always find a way thru the mountain and emerge stronger than ever with a roar on the other side.
Warm loving regards,
Angela Bradley Schwartz ’90
This quarantine period has forced a period of inward reflection about values. This is not a new endeavor, but the loss of old routines has focused a lot of attention on what from the old “normal” is missed, what is not missed, what wants refinement, and how to integrate the continuum of that understanding as we weigh how to safely return to society. The photo above of Nick ’20 and Liam ’23 was taken at Walden Pond in 2010. These words of Thoreau are always provocative but seem especially aligned with the inner process in these strange times.
Gabrielle Klatsky, parent of Nick ’20 and Liam ’23
Give me an honest-to-God South Philly cheese steak.
Stephen Rivele, parent of Nicholas ’20
Give me the wisdom to lead with my heart and not be guided by my conscience.
Toby Westbrook ’59
Give me wisdom, and I will conjure the rest.
Armen Amir Amirian ’79
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