Monday, July 17, 2017

Going to the Woods

In his iconic memoir, Walden, Henry David Thoreau wrote, “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.”

This same aspiration is what led my wife Cindy and me to acquire a cottage near Lake Winnipeg a dozen years ago – a country home that has proven to be a year-round retreat and not simply a place of summer respite. We both tend to work long hours and our modest cottage, which we dubbed Huldukot, offered the promise of a break from the pace and demands of urban life. Hidden in small grove of ash, birch, and spruce – a short walk from the lake – it is almost like entering another world.

Like Thoreau, I embraced our second home in the woods in an effort “to live deliberately” – to relax and regenerate, recover and be restored, and not, “when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” I had great plans to read books that had nothing to do with work, play my ukulele, visit with family and friends, ride my bike, and stroll along the water’s edge – maybe even dip into the lake from time to time.

The reality, though, is that I’m not very good at it – taking a break, that is. Every weekend, I tote my laptop computer along with me and, tethered to my phone, carry on pretty much the same as I do back in the city. I don’t disconnect much at all. At the same time, the satellite dish ensures that I can maintain a steady diet of cable news and mind-numbing electronic entertainment. During the summer months, I preach every second week or so at the nearby Unitarian church, which means that Saturdays are often spent revising and refining my sermon. I suppose that Thoreau had his own work to do – fishing, gardening, chopping wood – but a nagging voice in the back of my head tells me he was probably better at relaxing.

So this summer I resolve to do it right. If I’m going to go to the woods, I’m going to be there fully and not just carry on the same as I always do with a change of venue. I’ll continue to show up to lead church services, but the sermon is going to have to be done on Friday. I’ll still bring my laptop along, but I plan to leave it in my bag while the sun is shining. And this summer, I’m going to play the ukulele and ride my bike, but not at the same time. I’m going to live deliberately and relax with intention.

This post appears as the editorial in the July 15, 2017, issue of Lögberg-Heimskringla.

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