H for Huckleberry
". . . instead of engineering for all America, he was the captain of a huckleberry party."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson on Henry David Thoreau
The same week that Rosemary and I visited Walden Pond for the water and sights, The London Review of Books marked Henry's 200th birthday by looking at 20 new books about him and a national museum exhibition. Near the welcome center on state reservation land stands a replica of the writer's handmade cabin that he built in the woods. The original location calls the pilgrim from Concord or Tokyo who pauses for quiet minutes and may toss a tribute stone on the pile there. Under a hazy sky we placed canvas chairs on the narrow pebbly beach and set out towels and our books. Single swimmers made elegant lines in the middle of the pond. Pairs of kayakers in yellow vests traced the shore. Every few minutes another huckleberry-party captain led a small group of people up one of the trails into the surrounding tall pines, firs, and the oak trees whose helmeted acorns distribute themselves on hard-packed paths. This month, walkers see painted signs on stakes that add up to a kids' alphabet of all things Thoreau, like "B" for the honey-makers that fill a niche in a system once overseen by the town's "self-appointed inspector of snowstorms." Lightning strikes and pickerel conventions no doubt were also among his supervisory responsibilities. There was so much to see and do and account for.