I’ve been on vacation for the past week. The highlight, thus far, has to be our family’s pilgrimage to Walden Pond, where Henry David Thoreau lived deliberately for a couple of years during the height of literary Transcendentalism in the 1840s. The pond, which is now a National Park, appears almost as one would expect. A reconstructed cabin sits a few yards from the Pond and the parking lot, and a few dozen middle-aged hippies are always hiking around the Pond’s perimeter, ambling reverentially and carrying well-worn copies of Walden.
The Thoreau gift shop, however, took me by surprise a little. Of course, the shop stocks the 10 (or so) editions of Walden in print now, but it also peddles an excessive collection of Thoreuvian kitsch. Posters, t-shirts, audio books, walking sticks, bumper stickers, bracelets that say “Simplify, simplify,” and a host of other paraphernalia.
“Beware of enterprises that require new clothing,” Thoreau said in the “Economy” chapter of Walden. I wonder what he would think of the gift shop that sells his image. However ironic the gift shop might be, I’m grateful to have seen the site of Thoreau’s experiment, and I did purchase a bumper sticker that says, “Simplify, simplify.”
More thoughts from vacation to come