Friday, June 11, 2010

Henry and Edith

As a society we seem to be stuck in the fast lane. 

Busy, these days, seems to be the norm.
Sometimes I feel as if I must convey an illusion of busyness just because one feels inferior if one is not busy. Heaven forbid you have a quiet moment with nothing to do but set beside a pond and think and read a book.

If Thoreau could see us today. That is what I keep telling myself.

But I know better. Things were probably just as hectic in Thoreau's time as they are now.

Because, if there is one thing I have learned from books and reading, it is that, mankind, over time, has changed very little.

Henry David Thoreau escaped to Walden's pond and wrote: "Our life is frittered away by detail. ... Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand;"

In a trance of endless social engagements and mindless activities, Edith Wharton wrote Twilight Sleep, a book about a family determined to escape the pain, boredom and emptiness of life by living in a very busy world.

Now that I think about it, these two writers had a great deal in common.
Thoreau died in 1862. Edith was born in 1862. One began where the other left off. And each wrote about and were keenly aware of the fact that, mankind, throughout time, has struggled with this burden of busyness.

So, I wonder, has mankind always been this busy? Or are we just busy being mankind?

I know Thoreau well. Not through his books. Oh, I tried reading "Walden" once and all I could think of was Show me the damn pond so I can throw myself in and spare myself the agony of this book(!). I know Thoreau because I live with him. My husband is Thoreau. He could spend two years setting beside a pond. When we were dating, I lived beside a pond. And while my future husband was pretending to visit me, I now know that he was actually more interested in fishing in our pond. Hmm... Should have been a sign.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that Thoreau and hubby share the same birthday.

And, coincidentally, Edith Wharton and I share the same birthday
Each author was keenly aware of the fact that life had become too busy, too fast-paced, and too complicated in these modern times. Henry and Edith were definitely ahead of their time.

Hubby and I also share another trait with these two authors,  we share a love of place.
While Thoreau loved Walden's pond and preferred a simple life in the woods, Wharton, on the other hand, appreciated the finer things in life and lived in a mansion and wrote The Decoration Of Houses. So, I guess it should come as no surprise when I tell you that hubby prefers the country life while I prefer the city with it's beautiful architecture and cultural activities.

Wharton split her time between The Mount and Europe.

Thoreau spent two years living on an isolated pond in the woods. zzzz ... zzzz...

Hubby and I are the modern day equivalent of Henry and Edith: two complete opposites coming together through place and time with absolutely nothing in common but a love of place and an appreciation of books.  Next month we will be married twenty-nine years. It's a union of mutual respect. I respect the fact that he likes to go fishing and wander about in the woods. He respects the fact that I am a town mouse and prefer cafes and libraries and big old houses on tree-lined streets.

So, I guess the moral of the story is, along with astrological signs, check which author was born on your future spouses birthday. It's a good indicator of personality.
                                                                Edith Wharton 


Henry David Thoreau

I think there's a resemblance!

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