On Tambacouda Lake

Alexander Taylor - Senegal


March 8, 2019

“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 did not wish to live what was not
life, living is so dear;
nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I
wanted to live
deep and suck out all the marrow of life,”. — David Henry Thoreau, *On
Walden Pond*

As I approached my last couple of months in Senegal, I started to think of
David
Henry Thoreau’s book, “On Walden Pond,” and realized that over the last
seven
months, I had gained a much deeper appreciation on what it meant to live
“deliberately”
and to “suck the marrow out of life.” I envision Thoreau writing these
words as he
retreated to Walden Pond to reflect upon the meaning of his existence and
his
relationship to the society in which he found himself. As you can well
imagine, I have
had a great deal of time for self-reflection during this trip and to
literally “suck the
marrow” from my dinner, much less life.

So, on the last leg of my journey, with Thoreau’s inspiration, I decided to
take a day trip
on a row boat on the lake of Tambacouda. Tambacouda is located in
southeastern
Senegal and is known for its varied agriculture, rural beauty and
tranquility. So, I packed
a hardy lunch, my journal, plenty of sunscreen and headed out on my
journey. As I
rowed toward the center of the lake, it occurred to me that for the next
few hours, I

would be completely alone, in the middle of a massive lake and was one
hundred
percent responsible for getting myself back (note to self: do NOT lose an
oar!).

*Also note: I rented the boat alone during a learning seminar with a
staffer’s permission,
while remaining in the proximity of eyesight.

Now back to my Thoreau experience:
I proceeded to row for about an hour, and decided to take a break and
reflect. I could
feel the gentle shifting of the current shifted, as I sat upward and use
the oar to guide
the boat next to a muddy island in the center of the lake of Tambacouta.
The island is
raw with tall grass and small wild life. And, will serve as the epicenter
of my Walden
experience.

I lay back on the row boat and enjoy the rocking of the current as it
gently shifts my
small row boat side-to-side. I envision myself as an infant in the cradle
of life and
proceed to grab my journal and free write whatever comes to my mind. I
think of my
family back home and all of the things I took for granted like hot showers
and bacon
cheeseburgers. I think of the society I left behind for this experience and
wonder how I
will perceive it upon my return. I think of the children with disabilities
at a center where I
volunteer and of the support they need and the work left to do. I wonder if
they will
remember me after I am gone. I think of my friend who was killed during the
Stoneman
Douglass High School shooting. It strikes me that he will never have this
or any other
experience. I am reminded of the importance of time spent with those I love.
My thoughts begin to subside as I notice a small bird plucking at the tall
grass near the
shore. I begin to notice the hum of the green small forest of the island. I
see the water’s
colorlessness. I watch the rowboat’s imperfect tilt. I feel the clarity the
lake in my mind.

Finally, I am alone. Finally, I am free.

Senegal is a sanctuary. A place I can return to again and again for peace
of mind and
the tranquility of mind and thought.
It is time to begin the journey back to the wooden dock. I sit upward
feeling the
soreness of my core while turning the boat around. A final quote from
Thoreau enters
my mind.

*”In warm evenings I frequently sat in the boat playing the flute, and saw
the perch,*
*which I seem to have charmed, hovering around me, and the moon travelling
over the*
*ribbed bottom, which was strewed with the wrecks of the forest,”*.

Alexander Taylor