For as long as I can remember in my adult life, I have enjoyed columnists in my daily newspaper (before the internet silenced the presses). During the years I lived in Boulder, the Daily Camera carried syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman who wrote for the Boston Globe. On more than one occasion, I found myself taking time to handwrite Ellen’s entire column into my ‘Good Writings’ book.
Two of her most compelling columns from the early ‘90s were written at her summer cottage in Maine where Ellen spent hours watching her cat repeatedly sniff her way through the garden; where Ellen came to know her resident squirrel so well, she could point out where nut treasures were buried.
Ellen weighed the value of returning summer after summer to her beloved cottage vs. traveling somewhere new and different. She called it “living deep vs living wide” and had this to say:
These days, it’s possible to be citizens of the world or natives of the land. To tour or to belong. We can appease a restless desire for a change of scene or we can rest in one place and pay attention to the scene as it changes. It’s unclear which way we will see the most.
Ellen wrote of her strong sense of place in her Boston and coastal Maine homes, and was conscious that returning to her summer home each year gave her the opportunity to deepen her relationship with ‘her place’.
Reading that long before most of my US or European travels, I knew exactly which way I was happiest living … deep. The deeper the better. I nodded right along with Ellen as she described where her squirrel buried his nuts.
- the daily habits of my squirrels, too. I replay in my mind’s video that hilarious scene one snowy day when he couldn’t figure out why ‘that heap of cold white stuff’ prevented his normal take off from one side of our patio wall to the other, instead dropping him like a heavy anvil into more of ‘that cold white stuff’ on the ground four feet below. His world was turned upside down as he climbed that wall at least 15 times only to have his leap fail again.
- when the gray cat from three doors down across the street is let outdoors, he’s going to make a beeline for my front stoop, hoping one of the rabbits residing under my stoop will turn into lunch.
- how much thicker the tree trunks I see from my windows grow every year. It’s my tradition to measure them on September 1.
- ‘the pond guy’s’ routine when he comes to shower some love on the pink and yellow blossoms in the lily ponds outside my windows. Which pond he works on first and how he uses that orange machine.
- what it feels like to be on a two-week vacation exploring B&Bs, hiking trails, and docksides in the magic that is coastal Maine, and yet weep soulfully at night because I am so homesick for ‘home’.
No matter the season, when friends or family suggest North Carolina, New Zealand, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, I want to go so badly because I DO want to visit all those places. But I dread missing a season at home.
When I say ‘home’, I mean my dwelling. In a larger, more meaningful sense I mean Colorado, Wyoming, the Plains, the Rocky Mountains, the Southwest Desert. The older I get, the deeper I want to delve into my home. The more I want to learn its history, its people, its plants, trees, birds and animals.
The more I understand that my terrain is the kind where sitting quietly; listening to the voices on the wind; reading the scenes in the clouds; watching the landscape as insects crawl, land and buzz, the more I miss when I’m gone or when I’m moving too quickly to ‘fit it all in’.
I’m grateful to Ellen for naming my lifestyle – living deep – and for giving it as much value and prominence as the far more exciting living wide. Although I’ve had periods when living deep wasn’t possible – and I have enjoyed my travels – I’m consciously diving into living deep for these later years of life. My song will ring truer because of it.
Our minds work in strange ways. I opened my computer to complete the next post for my Annie Project. Then I started getting anxious that few readers or blogging buddies would find books (and planned future posts) about Wyoming or Colorado or my broader Western-centered explorations interesting enough to stick around. I felt compelled to
warn prepare you that more regional ‘grist’ is coming.
Which I’m well aware is foolish anxiety. We write what we know, love and research. Those who ‘live wide’ write about colorful adventures, sample foreign cultures and show us exotic locales.
Those who ‘live deep’ write about our monkey minds, walks, gardens, tools, fishing, insects.
I’m as smitten by reading ‘live deep’ homebodies as I am by ‘live wide’ road warriors. It’s all in the quality of your art, photos, writing. Why would I think you’d show any less interest in my chosen path?