Thoreau’s Influence

Cabin Life – 2 – Left unguarded the mind easily yields to brute emotions and today anger visits.  Suddenly another voice joins the conversation.  The great and simple Henry David Thoreau, recalling his own cabin days says, “Give me that poverty that knows true wealth,” and he wins the day!

 Opening the front door this morning Jack Frost greeted me and pinched my nose and ears.  I quickly closed the door and decided it was too cold for a walk and in no mood to play or fight with Mr. Frost today.  Instead, I boiled some eggs for a sandwich and warmed a pot of water for my tea.

My table was close to the pot belly oil stove which had a flat metal top like a griddle which measured about 2 ½ ft. long and 1 ½ ft. wide.  As long as the oil stove was stoking that flat top was hot, which was “always” during the winter, and it helped to keep the cabin warm.  It was an excellent place for my hot water kettle to sit while I typed and drank tea.  Sometimes in the morning while dressing, I would squish my underwear and undershirts on that flat top and it was a real treat to slip on hot clothes.  They kept me warm for a long time.

All morning I’ve been brooding about how I came to live in a cabin.  Wisdom escapes me and I angrily wish vengeance on those who betrayed me.  My Spirit Self abruptly engages me in sporadic conversation.

That pride of yours needs squelching, she said.

Is defending my dignity a proud thing to do?  I responded.

Well, no, it is just the way you do it, I guess.

Anger rarely overcomes me because I don’t like the person I become when possessed by it.  So it is very important that I avoid anger.   However, I am a passionate person.  I play passionately, love passionately, and fight passionately.  This means I strive for perfection—in academics, office tasks, teaching, and sports, and my shortcomings disappoint me easily.  But this also means that if you are my friend, we are friends for life, and yes, you can really count on me.

Competing oppositions have equal strength here.  The depth that I can love is also the depth that I can experience anger.  So I guard my anger closely and work to convert the negative emotion to positive energy.  It is such drive and energy that propel me to take advantage of opportunities that come my way and to keep reaching for the higher plane of life.  It urges me to keep searching, learning, trying new things, meeting new challenges and embracing new adventures—good or bad.  At times that fierce energy generated the concentration I needed to hit that forehand down the line for a winner, or to sprint that extra twenty yards, pushing on towards the goal, outrunning the fullback and finding the extra energy—sometimes in anger—to place the soccer ball in just the right angle and distance away from the goalie, but within a few inches from the post…for a goal.

So perhaps it is not anger, really, but a passion for validity and justice.  Sitting here in my cabin a passion to “suck all the marrow out of life,” as Henry David Thoreau did at Walden Pond, overcomes me.  My instinct tells me I won’t find that challenge living the “high” life, but rather living with simplicity.  I find myself totally in sync with Thoreau’s cry to “Simplify, simplify!”  (Ah, Thoreau has saved me from my anger!)

Pure, wholesome beauty resides in simplicity.  Today beauty resides in absolute silence.  I suppose silence has different meanings for people.  To a soldier at the war front it could mean either peace or rest before the battle.  For a mother a long silence is reason enough to check on the kids.  And a long silence between lovers could mean the relationship is under strain, or that the relationship is so comfortable that constant talk is not required.  For me, silence in my cabin on this hillside brings rest to my spirit, renewed strength and the reminder that simple is beautiful.

Ah, simplicity abounds when I undress and climb into my sleeping bag, pulling the zipper way up to my chin to keep warm.  When I awake in the morning I gloat in the simple task of pouring water into the pot to heat, then stepping into my little bucket to soap down and rinse clean.  It sounds absurd, but there many simple joys of life waiting to suddenly and joyfully expose themselves to you.

Two bunches of tulips I bought at Carr’s in Palmer brighten my cabin.  One bunch is deep red and the other is red and yellow.  I love flowers, and especially love to receive flowers for no special reasons, but “just because.”  When Jesus referred to the lily of the fields He noted that they didn’t toil or spin all day yet even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as the lilies growing freely in the fields.  I leave my typewriter to warm my tea and inspect the tulips closer, their rich colors, firm but delicate texture, strong stems sucking in their life line from the water-filled vase.

 The tulips remind me that the richness of life lies in the natural simplicity of all existence.  The Creator is a perfectionist and everything was created good and perfect.  Even the decaying process returns all life to dust to support new growth.   Nothing wasted.  All exists for His glory.

Perched in a clear vase on a white tablecloth the tulips are majestic.  The color white, as a backdrop projects clearer the richness of the objects.  Perhaps this also best explains simplicity.  Oftentimes we are too attracted to the objects that we are unaware of the background, or the things that really count as simple truths of life.  A single tulip simply arrayed reveals more truth and beauty than a complicated queen on a complex throne adorned with a precious jeweled crown.

            “Give me that poverty that knows true wealth.”   Henry David Thoreau

 © Jennifer Lee and, October 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Jennifer Lee and is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jennifer Lee and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.