Every year or so my husband reads Thoreau’s Walden again. Last Christmas I tucked a pocket version in his stocking, and I honestly think that it was his favorite gift. He keeps it by his chair in the den; I love to see him come in from a long day and an embattled drive home, sink into the leather depths, prop his feet on the coffee table and crack open that slim red volume. I especially love it when he calls me in from the kitchen to share a passage out loud. And then together we speculate and dream aloud about the Simple Life, about shedding unnecessary possessions and ideas, about the free pursuit of the aspirations God has set alight in our hearts. We are dreamers and unashamed, and the things that we dream of are pleasant and pastoral, ambitions of useful work and tranquil minds and quiet evenings in which to savor the Life that is rushing by in a timeless current.
Philip’s perusal of Thoreau invariably recalls one of my very favorite quotes, and one that I believe with all of my heart:
I have learned that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
Mama and I were conversing in this vein yesterday afternoon at my kitchen sink. She had come to help me prepare for my book club meeting, and as she snipped russet chrysanthemums and tucked them in silver julep cups she exhorted me as only Mama can to live the way that I know God has called me to. To treasure silence; to protect quietness; to cultivate creativity through intimacy with God. Her words fell on weary, willing ears, like a lullaby to a tired child, like rain on a thirsty land. I looked up from the potato I was slicing with wet eyes. Why is it that things we believe, things we think we know, carry such weight when spoken aloud by another woman?
“You know,” she mused, flower in hand, “if you think about it, most of the people we admire from the past, who’ve have had any influence on us artistically or otherwise, lived so differently from the world around them. And truthfully, they were probably thought rather odd even in their day!”
Another word from Thoreau chanted mirthfully in my head and I smiled.
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 he hears however measured and far away.
The music I hear has a decidedly old-fashioned resonance. And I know that when my life gets too busy and noisy to pick out its dulcet strains that I am denying who God made me to be. I think I’ll rest under a tree by the wayside and listen to the music for a while.