Skinny Dipping at Walden Pond
I packed my swimsuit without conviction, only
pandering to my ambition to swim in Walden Pond.
Just in case. It was October when I visited Concord.
Cold mornings gave way to crisp afternoons.
I left my swimsuit in my suitcase (as expected)
when I ambled from town to Thoreau’s woods.
Being sensible. Deliberate? There was frost, after all.
I believed I’d feel satisfied at the pond’s perimeter, but
underestimated the impulse for more when I caught sight of
the pool that sparkled with deep clarity, smooth and still, certain
of itself in the chill. Reflecting the enormity of place and past
from deep below the surface. Beckoning me to decide.
I was twenty-three when I had to decide what kind of woman
I would be. She became a woman who would swim,
naked if necessary, to avoid a missed opportunity.
Twenty years later I often felt uncommitted to her.
Tamped by fear that lurks when you love children
too much. Being practical. Exhaustion that undermines
spontaneity. The inordinate need for approval. Laundry.
Martyrdom, in general.
I had to wash it away. Renew my vows. I ran in search
of seclusion, as my mind took questions from my consciousness
Practical? Legal? Exposed middle-aged skin? I answered by
stepping off the trail. My clothes were off in an instant,
revealing who I am, who I still want to be, and will become.
I found footing on the stony shore and plunged
into Walden, baptizing my commitment to that woman.
Leaving my swimsuit behind had indeed been sensible.
Buoyed by the water, I swam farther out, submerged
my head, took gulps of air my lungs couldn’t process. I allowed
the enormity of place and past from deep below the surface
to envelop me and reflect off the sun.
Once re-clothed I continued on my way around the pond.
Revived for the second half of my life. Bathed of futility,
angst, trepidation. Fully alive. Gleaming.
I reached for more and got it. I got it.
Then I saw her—my future—older
than my mother. A white puff of hair.
Sunshine on her pillowy nakedness;
spotlighting her clotting round bum.
My heart swelled to see her standing on
the shore so confidently. I couldn’t take my eyes
off her. She turned unashamed, as joyful as I felt,
and said: “How can you notget in?”
-Kara Douglass Thom