Friday, February 6, 2009

Walden versus the Caterer and the Home Decorator.

Melissa at The Inspired Room is doing "A Beautiful Life" linky thing, and I thought I'd share my thoughts (and personal conflicts!) from this week about beautiful living.
I just finished WALDEN by Thoreau. I loved it, but I was torn by some of his ideas. Of course the reason I'm torn, is because I think he's right about many things, but I don't really want to give up some of my old habits and ideas. Henry David Thoreau undertook "Walden" as an experiment. He saw so many poor, over-busy, overworked, and under-thinking people around him, he tried a different way of life to see if it could help provide answers and solutions to some of these problems. He went to the woods near the edge of his town, and built a simple log cabin with his own hands. He farmed a little, enough to eat, and fished a little, enough to eat. He therefore had many hours in his day to observe and record nature around him, which he did beautifully, and painstakingly.

These are the woods he lived in. The rock pile is the old site of his cabin. These woods inspired beautiful thoughts and reflections. This was my favorite aspect of the book. The beauty of the language or comparisons would sometimes just make me smile. Thoreau's point was, he had TIME to think them, he had time to really live, because he didn't spend so much time trying to maintain a large farm, or trying to acquire more posessions, or just buying new clothes, or living off of more luxurious food. I see his point. When Jeff and I went backpacking last summer, I was surprised constantly by what we really didn't need, and how comfortable we were. I felt truly free. We could go anywhere and do anything, because we carried everything we needed on our backs. Similarly, Jeff always says I was his undoing, because before he married me, everything he owned would fit in his Geo Metro (do you remember how small the Geo metros were?!). Now we've got tons of stuff like this:

Seriously, what is all this decor for? If we were to move, I would hate trying to pack all of this even. We also have three big rooms for "lounging" in I guess you would call it. The family room, the formal living room, and the downstairs theater room, all which have furniture. I could live without the formal, but I'm personally tied to the other rooms. Why though? They all require upkeep and time. Thoreau said he for a while had a couple of pieces of limestone he kept on his desk, until he found they required dusting. He gave them back to nature. I wish I was more like this. I guess I love beauty and comfort around me and so try to create it in the place I spend the most time. The problem is I'm calcifying in the process. No longer do I really crave travel and adventures like I once did. KIND OF..., but I'm doubting the hotels can match all the comforts of my home and it puts a damper on things.

There's also the caterer in me. This is a wedding I did a couple of years ago. As you can see, this was a lot of equipment to bring and set up....and store, and maintain at home. I LOVE to cater. I love to put together an elaborate set-up that makes people happy to look at it. I love to cook elaborate food, that makes people say mmmmmmm. But then again on Thoreau's side, I think it's nice to have a simple diet day to day that doesn't require much time and effort to prepare, or work to pay for, so we can eat, and move on to the more important parts of our day: our adventures, our reflections, our beautiful thoughts, our love and relationships with each other.

Anyway, I don't know the answer for me. He made me think. Maybe someday I'll jettison all my "dross" as he calls it, and move to a higher plane of life. In the meantime, I REALLY love that theater room.


Kira said...

When Lee and I married he moved in his little truck his entertainment system, a box of DVD's and his suitcase of clothes. Two months later it took a 24' truck to move us. That was his point...what happened? I think though sometimes we get caught up in it all. Why do the 3 (ALMOST 4 of us in my defense) live in a 5 bedroom house? I certainly think that when it is time to clean.

Deja said...


But the thing is, the thing old Thoreau didn't tell you, is that his MOM and his SISTER (I think it was those two--some women, anyway.) came and picked up his freaking laundry, and did lots of other stuff for him. I mean, I love Walden as much as the next guy and the actual place is GORGEOUS. (You have to come see it. It's only 20 minutes from our house.) So his existence was charmed, and not nearly as simple as he so romantically claimed.

Still, I feel the same way. What IS all this stuff? When I hiked across England, I remember feeling free from all my junk, but I also missed my cell phone. I missed it like I assume I'd miss my left arm, if I ever lost it. And what's with that? Why should I be missing this stupid little electronic thing like it's a part of me?

Sigh. What to do?

When we go to Italy and Norway and France with just a few changes of clothes and no cell phone, I'll let you know if we have a Walden-esque experience. ;)

PAT said...

My husband and I (2nd time around for both of us) lived on his family's farm, the first 20 years we were married. We lived in the back pasture. Our home was at the end of a lane,that was actually a cowpath, widened. Our home was small and there were the usual hardships that come with the joys of rural/farm life. We had few possessions. We know what it's like to be snowed in. We chopped wood to heat our home. I canned and otherwise preserved foods. We lived a fairly simple life. Then the brothers decided it was time to sell the farm. The city was getting closer everyday. That was 6years ago. We built or present home. I was 60 that year. We were happy when we lived in the small home with less stuff and we know we'll soon go back to living in a small home with less stuff. But right now, we're savoring the joy of this larger home. Very large for a couple in their 60's. But there are benefits...we have plenty of room to surround ourselves with family and friends. We love it.
It's worth noting, when I first married in 1961, all our household possessions fit in the back of a 1953 Pontiac.

belann said...

Our latest experience with forced simplification has made me realize what "dross" I should be able to do without, but simply don't want to...yet.

Teresa said...

thought provoking post. I guess the tick is to find that Happy balance....whatever that may be, and it is different for everyone.
Thanks for sharing- enjoy it.

Felicia said...

Remember that Thoreau's experiment wasn't ongoing, it only lasted a year. I've occasionally asked myself if things are too much or how could I simplify things? It's a fine line without a clear answer sometimes. But as long as my environment makes me happy and doesn't stress me out, then I'm good :)