I am on the back porch and the air presses hotly down, suppressing buoyant plans. Inside, the television is on, and the air is cool. Outside, I hear the elm tree blowing against the pine tree. I hear the lawn sprinkler pattering, and I hear my rough-edged rear neighbor whose voice belts out, and I wish I was far away down a lane, away from society. Yet I could be in a city, like Paris, where you see and hear and experience all the human drama around you, and you adapt and perhaps call it good. I'm not sure how I could adapt unless I had natural sounds transmitted by ear buds into my ears. All that commotion would be hard for me to call good.
I wanted to come outside and think on what Thoreau is saying in his next, second chapter which is called "Where I Lived, and What I Lived for." He talks here about living a life which is full and deep and not "frittered away by details." Again his theme is to live freely from encumbrances which detract from having "lived life fully."
Thoreau was quite detached in principal. He advised his readers to avoid commitment to anything and to value simplicity and solitude: "I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion" (30). He's funny too.
I think many of us long to live Thorea-styled lives because we have many interruptions, commitments, lives full of those who depend upon us. We've already entrenched ourselves into the life that Thoreau would not promote, although he concedes at times that if this what you love, by golly, love and live it fully. But, many times, we find ourselves living a life that we didn't really intend. My husband says this which give me permission to say it as well.
What life did I intend to live? And, is it even possible to reach that life because it would also be fraught with uncomfortable stretches, of swamps, of people which I wouldn't know what to do with when they tried to do something with me. My sympathies have been like a trumpet vine which want to climb up rocks and wrap around branches. I doubt that it would have even been possible to live the life I wanted, given my personality, dispositions.
However, I know a few people who have tried to retrain what used to cling on to others' hopes for them and not their own. I've taken a small group at church to assert my claim to me (as the self-identity wave of Christianity is favorable right now). But yet I still have fish nibbling at my legs when I stand in the pure creek, and those fish are mine to feed, and I have character to develop as I go outside myself and tend to others. Somehow Thoreau seems to promote both in a way that begins with self: "Set about doing good." By good, he means by living well, healthfully, and without giving anyone else your "disease" of living without awareness. Among other ways, awareness hits one while outside tending to one's own garden, listening to the birds, being industrious without the work itself becoming the master, but the means to a better end of freedom from it. I've heard these ideas before on walks and from books.
But for me, I have a few minutes until I'll be called to go shop at Home Depot for new bathroom tile. I will have to make do with this because it's calling me to attend to it. I want the spirit of awareness to be part of what I must do, rather than expectantly waiting for detachment which isn't where I am or will be. And, do I really want detachment? I don't think so.
Yet Thoreau makes us strip things bare, and he tells us to look and see for what we're living. If there's a pack of bottle rockets I can avoid setting off, then I still do have the chance to live worthily by not lighting the match that makes chaos happen. Just yesterday morning, a lily with sparkling dew snuffed my disquieted thoughts. I walked away having bathed in my own under-nose Walden Pond. A Walden moment, a God call.
Those moment retreats can happen in any setting and in every life which finds itself in places unintended but yet unfurling with a wave of hello.
Off to the building store.