‘Simplify, simplify, simplify’ as you age

Sometimes, I wonder why our lives are so complicated—even after retirement. We have too many things, too much to do, too many places to go, and too many choices.
It makes us long for a simpler life.
For years, I have dreamed about building a simple log cabin on a wooded lot adjacent to our house. Then I would move in gradually—taking only the things I need for the day.
After a year, I would sell the old house and all of its contents.
I have in my files a 1996 “Annual Buyer’ss Guide of Log Home Living” with 20 yellow stickies marking the cabins I especially like.
A log cabin, according to the guide, promises a “living environment with an extraordinary sanctuary—the perfect shelter from the storms of modern day life.”
In a log cabin, “simplicity is revered over opulence.”
Last week, we experienced that simplicity. And I loved it.
We lived in a simple log cabin. The cabin—22 feet by 32 feet—had a wrap-around deck with a wonderful mountain view. Inside were two small bedrooms, a bathroom, a great room, and a spacious loft.
There were all of the necessary amenities—electricity, hot and cold running water, a refrigerator, a stove, a microwave, a cozy wood stove for the chilly mornings, and a coffee pot.
We had lots of time to sit on the deck to read and talk. Inside, we basked in the warm glow of the yellow reddish-brown log interior.
It made me think of Henry David Thoreau and his log cabin in the Maine woods by Walden Pond 150 years ago.
Like our cabin, Thoreau’s cabin was surrounded by tall pines. But his cabin was only 10 feet by 15 feet “with a garret and closet, a large window on each side, two trap doors, one door at the end, and a brick fireplace opposite.”
Wrote Thoreau, “I went to the woods 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 believed passionately in the value of simplicity. “Anything more than what is useful is not just an extravagance, but a real impediment and disadvantage.”
He patched his clothes instead of buying new ones, and wrote “beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.” And he saw fashionable clothing as “false skin.”
He built his own cabin instead of getting a bank loan to buy one and enjoyed his leisure time “sauntering through the woods . . . absolutely free from all worldly engagements.”
Thoreau was 28 when he went to the woods, and he stayed there only two years. Then at age 37, Thoreau immortalized his experience when he published his classic book, “Walden.”
That was in August, 1854. Last month, Houghton Mifflin published a special 150th anniversary edition, with spectacular color photographs.
In the spirit of Thoreau, the book is sensibly priced at $28.12—half a cent less than the author spent building his cabin at Walden Pond.
As you age, why not listen to Thoreau—“Simplify, simplify, simplify!” Don’t let your days slip away tending to things.
(To buy “Walden: 150th Anniversary Illustrated Edition of the American Classic” by Thoreau, log on to www.visit-snider.com)
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at thisside60@aol.com

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