Simplify, simplify.

It’s harder than it sounds.

When I bought the 10-acre clearcut in 1994, I just wanted some land. Then I thought I would just build a little shack to “get out of the rain.” Then I consulted an architect. And buried power lines underground. And added a clawfoot tub. Then an outdoor shower. This year it’s screening in the porch and adding LED outdoor lights.

What does Simplify really mean? Life without convenience sucks. But discipline and hardship are essential to happiness. I really believe that. So where’s the balance? These days I long to spend time in the woods. The first few days I’m at Walden among my trees I revisit old friends: The tiny birch twigs donated by colleagues for the ’95 replanting, now requiring trimming and thinning, 30′ tall. The Norway Maple my grandparents donated that now dominates the driveway and is on fire, red in the fall. I love that tree. Every time I visit I stand among them in awe. At times people who pop by (or my wife) ask me if I’m ok because they find me standing alone and still in the woods.

Despite all my busy-ness and plans, and frenzy, I really think that I could be quite content with a simple life there, observing. Writing. But maybe I should try it for more than just a few days. In fact, I will this summer. A month at Walden.

The thing about the woods is it doesn’t wait to be figured out. It keeps changing. So every visit is an introduction as well as a return.

Write it on my stone. Stuart loved his trees.

It’s taken me a year of moving and shoving to get rid of a third of the junk in my house in Ottawa. This shocks and saddens me. Why did I have that stuff in the first place? Why do I want to shed Even More?

And why do I think I would be happy on a hill in the woods watching trees grow? What kind of life would that be? And why in my heart do I believe that my children would be stronger and happier adults if 10 acres of mixed woodland were the only clutter in their life?

The thing is, I will probably never know.

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