“Through an infirmity of our natures, we suppose a case, and put ourselves into it, and hence are in two cases at the same time, and it is doubly difficult to get out.”Henry David Thoreau, from Walden, “18: Conclusion” (1854)
By the time we arrived at the summit yesterday afternoon, Deb and I were pretty well tuckered out. We looked for a place to rest, but for all the rocks on The Mountain, damned if we could find one up there worth the sittin’. I flopped onto the leaf-littered ground, while she perched on a small stone.
Thinking out loud, I said, “Wouldn’t it be great to have a bench up here?”
She whipped out her phone and within five minutes she’d ordered a small, some-assembly-required bench. It’ll be here tomorrow.
I tell that story to illustrate where Deb and I are these days. We’re truly split between two lives, and arguably among three — The Mountain, The Road and Second Chance Ranch.
Each is different from the others. We’re living all of them at once and none of them fully. Right now we have little choice but to be fragmented.
If you’ve ever built a wall between your work life and your personal life, you have some sense of what I’m talking about.
I got a kick out of Deb’s cousin’s reaction to learning of the spontaneous online bench order. He suggested that a better solution would’ve been to fell a nearby cedar and fashion it into a proper country bench. And he’s right, of course.
Our answer to The Sittin’ Issue, however, a manufactured bench, came from the place we occupy now — a couple of people, as Thoreau put it, “in two cases at the same time” (or three). It was an honest application of mindset and reality.
We are who we are.
That said — and this should be evident from what’s occupied us recently — we’re moving toward another mindset, a different reality. We don’t plan to divide our life forever, or for much longer. Three lives will become two, which ultimately will become one. To borrow again from Thoreau, we’re advancing confidently in the direction of our dreams.
As long as I’m echoing Thoreau, I’ll mention another passage from Walden; or, Life in The Woods. It’s been running through my head as we run around The Mountain, and I’ve invoked it here before. This from chapter 17, “Spring”:
“Our village life would stagnate if it were not for the unexplored forests and meadows which surround it. We need the tonic of wildness — to wade sometimes in marshes where the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe; to smell the whispering sedge where only some wilder and more solitary fowl builds her nest, and the mink crawls with its belly close to the ground. At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature. We must be refreshed by the sight of inexhaustible vigor, vast and titanic features, the sea-coast with its wrecks, the wilderness with its living and its decaying trees, the thunder-cloud, and the rain which lasts three weeks and produces freshets. We need to witness our own limits transgressed, and some life pasturing freely where we never wander.”
I’m no tree-hugging pantheist (and neither was Thoreau). But our time in The Ozarks — indeed, much of the time we’ve spent on the road — has immersed me in pleasure long deferred. I’ve spent more time outdoors in the last year than in the previous three decades combined. The experience has reawakened me to “the tonic of wildness.”
I’ve so missed the woods. It’s good to be back.
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.