For a number of years, I had wanted to go to the Ralph Waldo Emerson House. I’d imagined myself walking on the same wooden floors, looking out the same windows, and touching the same walls, as this great man did so many years ago. I fantasied that some of his inspired thought might rub off on me if I could, even for a few minutes, occupy the same space that he once had.
Last week, Jack decided to make my dream a reality and planned a short get-away to Concord for us. Driving into the town, finding a wonderful restaurant for lunch and tea…everything was perfect, and although I was excited to go to the Emerson House, I was enjoying every moment of the build up.
We pulled up in front of his home and goose bumps flooded me. It looked like the pictures. We walked up the wide stone path to the front door and noticed a small sign that read, “RING THE BELL”, which I enthusiastically did.
A few seconds later, the door opened slightly and a woman’s head peaked out as she grumbled, “What do you want?” What do we want? My mind couldn’t make sense of her tone or meaning.
I replied, while pointing to the note on the door, “The sign says to ring the bell.” She looked at the sign as if it were foreign to her and then shot back, “The next tour isn’t until 2:30. It’s 2:00.” As if this should somehow satisfy us.
“Do we need to take a tour?” I asked.
“No, but you can’t come in now” she replied. “There are too many people in here already.”
“Can I just step inside?”
“No. Come back at 2:30, OK?”, she snapped and closed the door.
I was stunned. We walked around the back of the house into the garden area, trying to gather ourselves. As we sat on a bench in the shade, wondering what to do next, I felt something that I didn’t expect to feel at a moment like that…I felt curious.
What were we supposed to do? My mind kept wanting to relive the episode that we’d just experienced with the rude woman. It was saying things like, “You should report her to the board, I can’t believe how she treated us”, but I could feel that if I did that, I would be closing off something good. I was at a fork in the road and was being asked to choose: grumble just like she did, or choose to think, “This must be perfect, even if at this moment I don’t understand it.”
The idea of waiting around in 85-degree weather for a tour with this woman seemed completely unappealing. I turned to Jack and said, ‘What about going to Walden Pond?” Within minutes we were walking hand-in-hand into the cool, clear, refreshing, water of Walden Pond…we were swimming in the same lake as Thoreau had…maybe Emerson too. We spent 2 glorious hours swimming, sitting, and just being…it was heaven.
As we talked about the “closed door” at the Emerson House, it was clear what had happened: spirit had moved in an unusual way through this woman. If she had been even a little bit nicer, we might have waited around for the next tour, and although that would’ve been fine, there was something completely unexpected and magical about our time at Walden Pond.
It was also clear that I needed to keep focused on the wonder and goodness of all that had occurred and not condemn the means by which it happened. Getting angry, indignant, or stewing about the woman would have ruined my day…it might even have closed off the thought about going to Walden Pond.
“Reality unfolds perfectly. Whatever happens is good. I see people and things, and when it comes to me to move toward them or away from them, I move without argument, because I have no believable story about why I shouldn’t; it’s always perfect.” Byron Katie, Question Your Thinking, Change Your Life, page 8