Walking ~ Day 154 Thinking About Thoreau

“An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.”

All the way back to high school, I have been an admirer of Henry David Thoreau. His love of nature and his two years and two months in a cabin he built on Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts. I set a goal to walk 365 days and so far I am succeeding. I have walked 154 days minus three or four, but the days I have taken two walks make up for it, in my mind. I am the one setting the rules here, they are my walks. Now that we have moved to the Intracoastal, it is less than a mile walk to the beach, where I am greeted with this:

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In Boynton Beach, very little beach front is accessible to the general public. Funny, isn’t it? A town with Beach in it’s name and it’s hard to get to the beach. This is a public beach, the sign says so:

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But you can’t park here:

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I have broken the code. I rented an apartment on the Intracoastal, less than a mile from this beach. Like Thoreau, I can take an early morning walk on the beach. My husband and I recently went for a late night walk. We were the only ones on the beach except for a lone walker with a flashlight swaying in the distance. The stars were amazing in this concrete jungle that is South Florida. The waves lapped the shore.

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“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

I certainly didn’t go to the woods when I moved to Florida, but I moved to a place where my husband and I could live cheaply. We could work less and live more. I didn’t want to die working in a cubicle in a dead end job that strangled my soul and killed my spirit. I wanted to have time to write and I firmly believe Thoreau is right:

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.”

I have also always admired Thoreau for his civil disobedience. He was thrown in jail for not paying his poll tax. He didn’t pay the tax because he abhorred slavery and wouldn’t support a government that supported it with his taxes. He felt this was a moral issue and asked, “Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience, then?”

I, like Thoreau, find walks relaxing, but every once in awhile I too find “the rembrance of my country spoils my walk.” Lately it’s been the nonsense of the government shutdown but tonight it was the local government and the nonsense of certain people, wealthy people, who think they can own the beach.

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Sure there are public access trails, but if you don’t live within walking or biking distance to the beach, you can’t get there. There is No Parking. But now I live within walking distance of the beach. My access to a walk along the ocean had improved and as Thoreau said, “In my walks, I would fain return to my senses.” I Googled fain, it means gladly or with pleasure. Until tonight when I came across this:

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A brand new sign at the beginning and end of my little beach access at the end of my road. The fancy little signs the town of Ocean Ridge puts up. For you see, in Florida there is this strange little thing going on. Towns that exist only between the intracoastal and the Atlantic Ocean. You think you’re still in Boynton Beach, but you’re not. You’re in some little incorporated town. This one happens to be called Ocean Ridge.

I imagine you are running scared now. You know where I’m going. This kind of stuff really pisses me off. I firmly believe no one should own the beach. After all, who is going to clean up the beach after the hurricane hits? You and I my friends, We the People, the taxpayers who fund FEMA. I believe in the motto of Yellowstone National Park, “for the enjoyment and benefit of the people.” I also agree with Thoreau when he said, “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to leave alone.” The beach is something that needs to be left alone, for the enjoyment of all.

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This sign does not deter me. I will continue to walk this beach. Once I find that picnic basket, I will be hanging here one evening soon, dining on the beach. Because after all, “disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”

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I know. I’m slightly crazy. Always have been. It started a long time ago, when I read this: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away.”

I’m not the only one. A young Indian man from our building set out across the Intracoastal bridge ahead of us, walking his dog. When we got to the beach and I saw these brand new signs declaring the beach was now private, I shouted, “What the hell is this?” Okay, honestly? I dropped the F-bomb. The Indian man was obeying the newly planted sign. He was turning around to leave the beach. As he passed by us he said, “I have never seen these signs before. I have lived here a year and walk here every night.”

“I know. This is the first time I’ve seen them,” I replied. He proceeded to tell us how he had lived in Connecticut and Hawaii where the beaches are public. We told him about New Hampshire. We all agreed this was wrong. I encouraged him to join us and take his nightly walk on the beach.

I sold my house, most of my possesions and moved to Florida, where the weather is nice year round and I could walk the beach every day. I chose to live a simpler life and as Ralph Waldo Emerson once said of his friend Thoreau, “He chose to be rich by making his wants few.” It is a very poor man indeed, who thinks he can own the beach.

I see acts of civil disobedience in my immediate future. I hope I don’t have to spend a night in jail, but like Thoreau, you can be certain I will write about it.

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams, live the life you have imagined.”

 
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2 thoughts on “Walking ~ Day 154 Thinking About Thoreau

  1. Beautiful photos. It’s always inspiring to read about someone else who’s journey had been shaped by Thoreau. Have you read his essay Walking? I’d recommend it. And all the best with your acts of civil disobedience! I agree with you wholeheartedly – the wild places in nature, like beaches, should be held in common for everyone.

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