Tag Archives: writing

Quality Across Time

1 Jun

Material possessions are not on my list of What is Important in Life. However, I like things made with care and quality, things that last.

There have been times in my life when I have bought “disposable” clothing or furniture, and I have always regretted it.

Thrifty as I am, I need to know that what I buy will continue to serve its purpose for many years, and hopefully look beautiful doing it.

NOTE:  I wrote these words many months ago and saved the draft, waiting until I had more to say. I have not been writing on this site, due to having less time and energy to write the kind of posts I want to write. I have decided to go ahead and post my occasional thoughts, however brief they may be.

In this case, I am writing about things made with care and quality and then telling you that I will publish writing with a little bit less care and quality. I do see the irony.

I think, right now, it is more important to bring some care and quality into my Real Life. I care about writing…and so, actually doing it– even in smaller pieces– improves the quality of my Life, if not my Blog.

 

 

 

 

 

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Change

9 Feb

I have been posting on this blog once a week, but this week I had expected that I might not write at all.

I thought, “I have too much anxiety this week.  My life is turning upside down.  I can’t think straight.  I can’t write.”

Then I realized, “That is exactly why I should write.”

Recently, I took some pictures of Spring branches and used them in a post.  The branches were bare to start with, but tiny buds turned to flowers and a few leaves.  The photos showed beauty, but they also showed change.

Sometimes you think you have it all together.

Everything changes. 

Some people looked at my photos of blossoming  branches and made comments about the speed of nature and the speed of life.

Sometimes life is too slow and we are impatient.  Sometimes it is too fast and we want it to stop.

Today, thirteen days after I brought them home, the branches still hold my attention.  Most of the flowers have now withered or shattered.

Petals are strewn across the tablecloth.  That is not a serious problem for me.  Something is always strewn across the tablecloth around here, and it is normally far worse and more difficult to remove than a few pink petals.

The branches have changed again.  They are not bare, however.  The few green leaves have become many.  At this point, there are more leaves than flowers.  Something dies and something else appears.

I am thinking about closed doors and open windows.  I am thinking about caterpillars and butterflies.  I am thinking about the nature of change.  I am thinking about chaos, about simplicity, and about Life, and how it is never the way we plan it out, or the way we expect it to be.

That is the adventure of it, right?

Sometimes life is messy.

Our family is preparing for a move.  This is a forced downsizing of our household, for financial reasons.  My life will change dramatically over the next six weeks.  Such is the nature of life.

Life is messy and stressful.

Life is surprising and interesting.

Life changes and we change with it.

One of my mothers-in-law ( I have two) refers to problems, difficulties, or struggles as Periods of Growth — as in, “Her husband left her with six children and no support, and wow, she experienced a real Period of Growth.”

My Period of Growth will be relatively minor, but I will grow and I will change.

It will be interesting to see how I turn out.

Henry David Thoreau: Wise Philosopher or Ugly Skulker?

6 Jan

Once upon a time… during the year 1845, to be more precise,  Henry David Thoreau — following the excellent advice of his best friend, poet Ellery Channing — set off to build himself a tiny house in a quiet spot near Walden Pond, in his home state of Massachusetts.

He intended to stay there alone and live in harmony with nature, wishing to experience the stripped-down essence of life, and to accomplish some serious writing.

Fulfilling his intentions, Thoreau wrote a little book called Walden, about his experiment of conducting life in a simple, natural, and self-reliant manner.  He advised his readers to simply, and to reduce whenever possible.  In America’s current sad economic state, and in our modern, wasteful and multi-tasking culture, this is good advice indeed.  However, I suspect it to be something that happens more often through necessity than as a result of philosophical design.

In my high school Literature class, this account of simple living was required reading.  Interestingly, I don’t remember all the volumes I was asked to read for school, but I do remember this one.  Looking back now, I recall that as I read through the book, I observed Thoreau’s timeless wisdom and his clear practicality —  but I also found Walden to be one of the most (ironically) long-winded and boring things I had ever read in my life, up to that time.  Many of the included details felt completely unnecessary to me.  For example, I did not yearn to know the price of the lumber he used to build the house, but I think he devoted an entire page to it.

I have very recently been thinking of giving Walden a second look, a second chance to win me over.  I enjoyed some of Thoreau’s other material, and in fact I found his essay Civil Disobedience particularly inspiring.  I wonder if perhaps Walden might resonate more with me, now that I have more life experience.  What does a teenager know about solitude, simplicity, and frugality?  Answer:  Not very much!

This is not Walden Woods, but I once found it to be a good "thinking spot."

Now, instead of being a teenager myself, I am a parent of one teenager and two preteens.  Life has changed, or to be more accurate, I have been changed by life.  I certainly spend far more time thinking about simplicity now than I did when I was younger, and I even write about it.  I regularly search for ways to make life simpler and more efficient, not to mention less expensive.  Sometimes I even use up my free time in pursuit of creative ways to create more free time.  I admit, there may be something wrong with my math in that equation…

“Our life is frittered away by detail,” Thoreau wrote in Walden.

So true.  How many details are frittering our lives away?  This statement may be more true now than when it was originally written.  Personally, I feel pretty frittered.  How about you?  So you can understand why I started thinking, “Hey, maybe old Henry David Thoreau wasn’t so dull after all!” 

The man was called worse things than boring during his lifetime, I have learned.

If you look up Thoreau on Wikipedia as I did, you will find an early photograph of him (an 1856 daguerreotype) that suggests he looked a bit like Ellen Degeneres with a neck-beard.  There are also some quotes to be found from Thoreau’s contemporaries, many of them very emphatically calling him “ugly.”  I would like to note here that the image in which Thoreau seems to resemble Ellen Degeneres is by far the most flattering image of him that I have seen.

Although Thoreau was not as popular in his lifetime as he has posthumously become, some supported his writings and his actions.  One of his more notable benefactors was Ralph Waldo Emerson, who befriended Thoreau and took him home to tutor his children and perform other helpful tasks while living with the Emerson family.  Emerson employed him for years, spoke well of him, and also made available to him the land on which he lived for more than two years while writing Walden.

Others were not as generous as Emerson, and certainly not as friendly.

Robert Louis Stevenson considered Thoreau to be a “skulker“, and suggested he was not only very ugly, but also effeminate, anti-social, and humorless!

I suspect that Stevenson had a personal grudge against Thoreau, as the majority of quotes about him are more positive, save for the general consensus that he was ugly.  Thoreau’s lifestyle choices were unconventional enough that a few other writers believed it would be more appropriate for him to get a job and act like a civilized person, instead of living alone in the woods like a savage heathen — but many others seemed to find his thoughts interesting.

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” This quote from Walden suggests that Thoreau understood the negative perception others had of him, and was more concerned with being true to himself than with improving his public image.

In reality, whether or not Thoreau was ugly, whether or not he stepped to the music of a different drummer, he was neither lazy nor savage.  He studied at Harvard university for some years and spent much of his adult life working in his family’s pencil factory, where he involved himself in upgrading and modernizing the facility.  I found this last piece of information surprising.  I am having difficulty envisioning Thoreau working in a factory of any kind, after reading his work.

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. “

~ Henry David Thoreau (from Walden, 1854)

I don’t think he was a skulker at all.  I think he was a dreamer.

Thoreau has long been a famous success, praised by many writers and other great minds.  His writings have influenced important leaders like Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr., his works have been assigned in public schools, and his philosophies are quoted across the internet. 

Take that, Robert Louis Stevenson!!

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The quotes and information summarized above (along with further information) may be found on these pages:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_David_Thoreau (life, critiques of)

http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Henry_David_Thoreau (further quotes by, and quotes about)

http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Walden (Walden quotes)

Wall of Irrelevant Text (Less is More: Part Three)

9 Aug

Today’s topic is journalistic minimalism.  (I’m for it.)

I just clicked on an article (from Yahoo/New York Times) about a person who did something pretty interesting.  At least, that’s what I thought I clicked on.

What I found were two or three paragraphs on the interesting person, followed by 35 to 40 more paragraphs on a bunch of stuff I didn’t care about at all.

Moments of my life seeped away, as I scrolled and skimmed.

There were quotes and references from:

  • financial analysts
  • psychologists
  • professors, associate professors, and scholars
  • economic advisers
  • consulting groups
  • warehouse store spokespeople
  • industry professionals
  • retailers
  • researchers
  • magazine articles
  • more psychologists, more professors, and more analysts
  • a film maker
  • and… my personal favorite irrelevant commenter… a “home entertainment adviser”.

My scrolling paid off.  The end of the article returned briefly to the interesting person, with a link to her blog.

If you are interested:  Tammy Strobel is the interesting person, what she did was downsize her life to the extreme, and her blog is called rowdykittens.com.  I like her blog.  It has a lot to do with simplicity, and I’m all for that.

All I needed were the two or three paragraphs that were actually about her, and the blog link.  So why did I need to scroll through an endless stream of quotes and tangentially related information?

Sorry, Yahoo/New York Times…I’m not interested in what a warehouse store spokesperson, a consulting group, or a home entertainment adviser have to say about…well, about anything.