Sunday, March 4, 2012

Stuff and Bother

John Muir was on my mind this morning, as he often is when I am out rambling. He who walked 1000 miles from the mid-west to the Gulf of Mexico carrying the barest minimum of what was needed to make the trek, sleeping in barns and graveyards, begging food at farmhouses, enduring heat and cold and happy in the bargain. I have wondered at least a thousand times what life would be like if lived that way.

I spent a good part of the morning out walking through woodlands and wetlands, surrounded by song, swamp and white-throated sparrows and serenaded by bald eagles and red-shouldered hawks overhead. The marshes were filled with singing spring peepers and painted turtles littered every log above the water. Carolina chickadees pulled at narrow-leaved cattail seeds and downy fluff floated through the air like snow before settling onto the water in fuzzy tufts. Everything was right. Food was there for the taking in the water and above, nesting holes were prevalent in the beaver-killed hardwoods, shelter was to be had in the upland hollies and red cedars, water was plentiful for spawning. I lost track of time watching and, as I stood in the midst of all the busyness of day to day survival, I felt like an outsider…in the marsh but not of it.

As I turned towards home, I had the all too familiar qualms about what I would find when I got back. I would find stuff, stuff and the bother of keeping it, arranging it, and caring for it. There are some who say I have comparatively fewer possessions than many people in our society but I don’t find that pronouncement particularly convincing. I have far more possessions than many people in the world, but more to the point today, I have far more possessions than the creatures I stood so long observing this morning and far more than John Muir ever dreamed of taking on any of his long treks. Today, I envy his and their freedom.

I am asking myself once again, “why?” “Why do I have all this stuff, how does it encumber me and what am I going to do about it?” What would it be like to come home from a long walk in the wilds and not feel weighed down by possessions as I walk in the door? What would it be like to have only what I need? Perhaps, by God’s grace, this will be the year I find out. Perhaps I will figure out how to live as simply in my home as on the trail. Time will tell.