“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, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms…”
–Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Building a Cabin
My wife and I are building a cabin in the woods. Our slice of nature was purchased as much as an investment, both financial and in preservation of a small slice of nature, and as a retreat from the saddening reality of modern life. That it was bought in the midst of a global pandemic only serves to strengthen the point. Now, not unlike Thoreau, we are building a cabin. Although our process of working with the neighbors will be very different … we will pay for help and do less with our own hands … it is really not that different. Thoreau paid with time, physical labor, and small amounts of money here and there. We are paying with a larger fraction of money, but also putting in significant time and labor. The dedication, care, and concern for the environment are not different.
Our cabin will be small and primitive in most ways. (My wife politely declined my suggestion that I personally construct a replica of Thoreau’s cabin.) Where Thoreau had a beautifully constructed stone fireplace for heating and cooking, we will forego that luxury and substitute it with a simple metallic connection to the nearby electrical grid. Our communication from the world won’t come from printed newspapers, but rather from a connection to the fiber optic internet that runs through our land (and yet does not yet exist at our civilized suburban home!). My writing will not use a pencil and paper, but rather a MacBook Pro in most circumstances. But essentially, those are the only differences. When living in our cabin, we will be living deliberately.
Thoreau is also known for his aphorism “Simplify!”. It seems that it is relatively easy to equate the concept of simplifying with living deliberately as many modern conveniences and necessities are truly just complexities. While our cabin in the woods will not have running water or a sewage system, those are also not required for extended periods of occupancy. They are expensive complexities that have a high impact on the local environment and we simply do not need them there. Our intent is to occupy the cabin for short periods of time to rest, relax, recreate, and perhaps do some contemplative work on photography or writing. In other words, it will be a place, in this modern, misguided, disturbing, and confusing world, where we can go to live deliberately. And, with hope, that will help us to live more deliberately in the complexity of the so-called “real world”. There are some beautiful rocks there to sit upon and mediate these points.
Next up; ???