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.” (Thoreau, Walden)
One of the reasons I quit my job last year—perhaps the main reason—was that when I die, I do not want to discover that I had not lived. It was not a bad job that I had, and we did a lot of good things for the community. But it was not my passion, and I saved like mad so I can take this year off.
I know about passion for one’s work—I live with it: My spouse works for the newspaper, and has done pretty much all his life since college. From mail room to editor, he has newspaper ink in his veins. He has no Sunday evening stress, and he wakes up Monday morning looking forward to going to work. His work is his joy. Even in my most favorite jobs, I never looked forward to Monday morning.
I’m not alone. How does one move towards living deliberately? Sometimes, it’s by following, at least loosely, in Thoreau’s footsteps. That’s what Tom Montgomery Fate does in Cabin Fever: A Suburban Father’s Search for the Wild. Fate lives in suburban Chicago, and has a cabin in Michigan on 50 acres shared with about nine other families. Cabin Fever is mostly about his time at the cabin (at least so far—I’m only halfway through), but it is also very much a meld—perhaps a meditation—of urban living and being away. Being away. Is it being away, being out of touch, or being in nature? All are important. “A deliberate life is a search for balance—in mind and body and spirit—amid our daily lives.”
One day on his way to work, Fate drops his son off at preschool. As he was leaving, he looked back and saw “children sprawled everywhere on the carpet in a kind of wild and holy innocence—working wooden puzzles, reading board books, rocking dolls, singing silly songs. My God, they were delirious with curiosity.”
He “wanted to crawl on all fours back into their world, to dress myself up in their total surrender to the now. . . . When, I wonder, did I first begin to lose my faith in the moment I was living in? When did my life first start to feel like a faucet that never stops dripping, like a sprawling to-do list?”
There are some excellent nature observations, and he spends a bit of time watching ants. This caught my attention because I think the plot my house is on is one big anthill. Small medium and big, I get them all, inside and outside. I have recently claimed partial internal victory through the use of vinegar (summer may also be playing a factor). But I loved this little tidbit:
I’m pretty sure we’ve got the neighborhood covered here, antwise.
I hesitate to say I love a book before I finish it, but so far I am loving this book (and I expect it will be in my top 10 at the end of the year).
It was worth it just for the ants.