One of the pleasures of moving to New England, after 16 years in California, was learning more about our country’s history, and in particular, our literary history.
I toured the Orchard House (where Little Women was written, and where Louisa M. Alcott lived with her parents and sisters).
The Orchard House,
I breathed in the literary dust of Emerson while touring his home, just across the street from Louisa’s.
Daily walks from my own home led me pass the Old Manse, where Thoreau and Hawthorne, Fuller, Alcott and Emerson, laid plans for a garden, and a better world.
But I was most affected by my strolls around Walden Pond, just a few miles away, and the stomping grounds of Henry David Thoreau. Every time I took my guests for a hike around the “pond” (much more like a lake) and then meandered around the cabin replica and gift shop, I’d pick up a book on Thoreau’s writings or a book mark with one of his quotes.
Joseph Sohm/Visions of America/Corbis
You know, Thoreau had a lot to say.
“Be true to your work, your world, your friend.”
“Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something.”
Statue of Henry David with cabin.
The one I took to heart the most was, perhaps, the simplest one:
Simplify Simplify Simplify.
Don’t we all know the value of this thought, deep inside?
The more ‘stuff’ we surround ourselves with, the more our heads get stuffed with non-necessities.
The more we add to our lives (items, not friends), the more we lose sight of who we really are, deep down inside.
My man and I took Thoreau seriously. First, we named our new puppy, Henry (Henry David when he got in trouble).
And then we really got serious. We left our beautiful, much-loved 5-bedroom home, and downsized to a 2-bedroom condo.
To make the move, and the change, we had to get rid of a lot of “stuff.” All of my beloved books – off to the library and the thrift shops. Lamps, couches, extra rugs and dinnerware – sold. Oak headboards, mattresses, linens and towels – gone. Antique dressers, hope chests, and piano – offered to family and friends.
I never cried for any of it, and to be truthful, never missed it either. The need for those things seemed to blow away, like tiny bubbles in the wind.
I discovered that Thoreau knew it all, back in the mid-19th century. The less we’re encumbered with possessions, the more open we are to the world around (and inside) us.
That said, I’m going to simplify a bit further for the next two weeks and not write. Gasp! Well, no, I’ll write, but I won’t share my flashes of writerly wisdom while I’m frolicking with grandchildren, swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, avoiding the East Coast jellyfish, and all around playing.
I hope your next few weeks are simply – joyous!