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Living Small

Walden Pond

I’ve always known I would live small. Not small in terms of the overall arc of my life’s story, but small in my living space.

When I was a kid, we moved into a classic New England farmhouse of the “big house, middle house, back house, barn” variety. With a family of eight plus assorted pets and farm animals, we needed the space. We had acres to roam inside and out. But my preferred place in that grand old house was my bedroom closet.

It wasn’t any typical modern closet. This was a closet that ran the length of my bedroom tucked in under the eaves. It smelled of plaster dust and old wood. I cleaned it out and turned it into my writing den. It was cozy and warm on a rainy or snowy day, perfect for communing with my adolescent muse. I sat for hours scribbling down my deepest thoughts and heartfelt wishes.

A second closet in the bedroom next to mine was another favorite spot. I set that up as a playroom for my sisters. There lived the stuffed animals and baby dolls, all the flotsam and jetsam of little girls. We used the space as a place to put on plays or invent stories.

When, as a young teenager, I learned of Thoreau’s cabin at Walden, I knew I had found my ideal home. One room containing all that was essential. In my rambles around the countryside near our farm house, I picked out spots for my cabin. My favorite spot was on the shore of Adams Pond, my version of Thoreau’s beloved Walden Pond. That was the life for me.

As I moved out into the world, the places that made me the most comfortable were the nooks I found. I am drawn to little rooms, porches, and alcoves tucked away from the busy-ness of the world. I have pored over small cabin designs, turned sheds into havens, carved out writing areas in alcoves, and dreamed always of how I could live small and simply.

When my husband and I were talking about moving into an RV full-time, it was a comfortable thought for me. I would be living small. Two hundred and thirty square feet. With two humans, one dog, and two cats. Tight quarters. For many this is the stuff of nightmare, being crammed into a small space. But for me, there is a feeling of “rightness.” Everything we need in one small space. The value-added benefit is that we have a far larger back yard now. We can hitch up and move to a new view very simply. After years of being tethered to one place, we can wander at will.

If Thoreau lived now, I think he would have embraced this lifestyle. I can see him in a van parked alongside a stream, writing in his journal about all that he sees and thinks. Simplicity. It was a major theme for his life, and it is for mine as well.

I still dream of my little cabin. It’s out there somewhere waiting for me. When the traveling days are through, I will go there, wherever “there” is. I will lift the latch and push open the door and breathe a sigh to be home at last.   

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