Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Waking life and a dream

The blog phenomenon is still new to me. All sorts of interesting perspectives now enrich my quiet life in Vermont. In many ways I have deeper and more purposeful interactions than I had living in New York City, some of them with the same people I knew in the city. As technologically sophisticated as I consider myself, I still find it kind of spooky to have friends I have never met. I am still trying to wrap my brain around connections that transcend the physical ones and zeros zipping along copper and glass cables. It’s as tough a problem as understanding how electrical impulses in the brain get translated into word and concept.

One of my very favorite blogs is by a dead guy. Over at Greg posts a daily excerpt from the Journals of Henry David Thoreau. I try to read it every day, because there is usually something worth thinking about, maybe writing about. There are lots and lots of blogs, many of them very good, that focus on nature and daily life. I don’t dare aspire to the quality of Thoreau’s writing, but it is an inspiration to me.

So many lines here that could be titles or themes for essays entire. Are we not always living the life that we imagine we are? Maybe that line will reinvigorate my languishing NaNoNovel. It is pretty much the theme of Story Wars, that we make use of the stories we tell ourselves to shape our own lives.

I can define myself as a person who could not take New York, who retreated to the countryside. Or I can tell what I consider the true story, that I had enough of the rough and tumble of big corporations, that while I still respect that world, I have been lucky enough to be able to find the quiet refuge that my spirit required. The tricky part is that stories have a way of turning on you if they are not completely grounded in reality, but after two years in Vermont, the life I imagined has become an even better reality. The other tricky part is that it is hard to know other people’s stories, and every person has a right to their own.

Thoreau's Journal: 15-Nov-1853
After having some business dealings with men, I am occasionally chagrined, and feel as if I had done some wrong, and it is hard to forget the ugly circumstance. I see that such intercourse long continued would make one thoroughly prosaic, hard, and coarse. But the longest intercourse with Nature, though in her rudest moods, does not thus harden and make coarse. A hard, sensible man whom we liken to a rock is indeed much harder than a rock. From hard, coarse, insensible men with whom I have no sympathy, I go to commune with the rocks, whose hearts are comparatively soft.

Thoreau's Journal: 14-Nov-1852
Still yarrow, tall buttercup, and tansy.

Thoreau's Journal: 13-Nov-1851
A cold and dark afternoon, the sun being behind clouds in the west. The landscape is barren of objects, the trees being leafless, and so little light in the sky for variety. Such a day as will almost oblige a man to eat his own heart. A day in which you must hold on to life by your teeth. You can hardly ruck up any skin on Nature’s bones. The sap is down; she won’t peel. Now is the time to cut timber for yokes and ox-bows, leaving the tough bark on,—yokes for your own neck. Finding yourself yoked to Matter and to Time. Not a mosquito left. Not an insect to hum. Crickets gone into winter quarters. Friends long since gone there, and you left to walk on frozen ground, with your hands in your pockets. Ah, but is not this a time for deep inward fires?

Thoreau's Journal: 12-Nov-1859
I do not know how to distinguish between our waking life and a dream. Are we not always living the life that we imagine we are?

Thoreau's Journal: 11-Nov-1851
“Says I to myself” should be the motto of my journal.

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