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Summer 2002 Edition

Meditations with Moose

J. Parker Huber

4 July 1991. 5:15 A.M. A cool breeze blows mist and bird song over Brassua Lake. My companions, two twenty-year-old men, college students from Sweden, sleep in their tent. Our fourth day of canoeing Thoreauís Maine begins.

We are a little off course. After paddling the length of Moosehead Lake fifteen times over the years, I couldnít resist this diversion from Thoreauís travels. At Mt. Kineo we left Moosehead Lake and paddled and portaged our way west up the Moose River to here. At least Thoreau saw Brassau Lake from Mt. Kineo, even though he never crossed it.

I sit on the edge of our tiny island, meditating. I think of my first trip up Moosehead Lake. It was July 1974. I was then at Eastern Connecticut State University and had created a seminar to combine literature of nature with the experience of that nature. We were retracing Thoreauís three Maine woods journeys, while reading his accounts of them and writing our own. Four students and Jim Fox, then an English Professor at Georgetown University, accompanied me. Since then, Jim and I have traveled together a great deal, inwardly mostly, searching for our real selves, devastated in childhood. Now I am with Jimís son and a friend of his.

My mind quiets. I hear someone paddling a canoe. Odd, for this hour, I think. Donít "be disturbed about the disturbances," Gurudev counsels. My mind empties instantly for a moment. The canoe paddler comes closer. Now it sounds like someone wheezing. An asthmatic? The suspense is searing. I open my eyes. The chestnut head of a bull moose planes across the still water straight for me. What would Gurudev advise now? My heart stops. Our eyes meet, hold fast for seconds, exchange blessings. He veers to my right, comes onto his feet, walks into the narrow swamp behind me, which joins island to mainland, and begins breakfast. I continue meditating while he eats, thankful that we can share the same space for our separate purposes. Neither has to alter his routine, his matutinal ritual, for the otherís sake.

6:07 A.M. The Canadian Pacific Railroad heads west along the lakeís southern shore, opposite us, barely a quarter-mile away. Iím startled out of my meditation. The moose dines, unperturbed. The raucity must be familiar to him. At Walden, where Thoreau went 146 years ago today, to write, to read, to "live deliberately," to meditate on the seasons, he was "refreshed and expanded when the freight train rattles past me." I am transported to those passengers who are sleeping in comfort or having breakfast or viewing what we are experiencing. We are part of their journey. Our worlds mingle. I see the mooseís right eye in mine.

Excerpt from an essay originally entitled "John Muir and Thoreauís Maine." Reprinted by permission of The Concord Saunterer, N.S. Volume 3, Fall, 1995.

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