I’m a sucker for a good first line. From Under the Sun, an online journal of creative non-fiction, Alison Townsend’s opener to “My Thoreau Summer” drew me in: “If, on an afternoon in midsummer, I happen to find myself near a small lake or pond, opening like earth’s blue eye before me, and then catch a whiff of the water’s clean mineral scent, overlaid with algae and mixed with the head-clearing resin of white pine, all of it intensified, cooked by sunlight, I am instantly transported to South Pond, in Marlboro, Vermont.” Wow.
But it’s a serious let down if the writer can’t uphold the promise of such a great opener. No worries here: Townsend delivers. Her essay takes readers through her summer spent at this pond, and it is almost utterly painful when she must separate herself from the place (c’mon – no spoiler here – summers do come to an end).
How many of us know this very experience: “I was homesick for the pond for months after leaving it. I missed the silence and the stillness, nothing but the sound of owls calling at night and wind in the pines. I missed my meditative forays, alone in the canoe. I missed the sight of Grace, reading across the room. But more than anything else, I missed who I was at the pond. Or rather, I missed the way that I forgot myself in its presence. Returning to the normal world and resuming my studies was a letdown after living as elementally as I had. As time passed, I would slowly understand that, without intending to, we had in fact lived more deliberately at the pond than I realized.” Double wow.
Read it. All of it.