What Would Henry Do?

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live. “

~ Henry David Thoreau

This past June I had a major shift in my life. It had been planned in part, a large part even, but one can never completely plan big life changes. The variables twist and turn with or without our permission, and sometimes we are blindsided by what we thought we knew. Sometimes our inner world cracks wide open while from the outside things seem status quo. This has been my experience, and the past 3 months in the midst of the busyness of summer, I have been processing what I am discovering in the after shocks of my inner earthquake. When I started this blog in June I knew only that I wanted to write, needed to write, and needed to share that writing. Even though I am constantly thinking about topics to write on, it is difficult for me to turn those topics to tales. Again it has been over a month , but I believe I have a plan this time. I may still have to fake it, but my material is more readily available than turning college stories into parables for life. In early June I had just finished reading Patti Digh’s book Life is a Verb which I wrote about in July. This book was the very thing that cracked me open, and has been the catalyst for much that followed. After meeting Patti, also in June (a story I will write at some point), I stayed in touch with her through facebook and twitter. When it was announced there would be a 6-month teleclass based on Patti’s book, led by she and her business partner David Robinson. I knew without question I would take it. We are now 2 months into this journey and I choose to use it as a basis for my writing. It is the main thing I am focused on other than the ever-present artwork, and it just makes sense. So… this brings me to my main topic today.

The cabin in in Walden Woods

Why Blog?

As I explained in my first post it is not because I am supposed to. I already made that mistake! In writing for an audience I am attempting to find the stories I have to tell for myself. What is truly meaningful for me, and what do I want to bring to my experiences? This means sharing what I’ve learned in the past, what I am learning presently, and pondering what is to come. While journaling for myself does some of this it is not the same as writing to share. This kind of writing is very different than a personal journal. It requires that I organize my thoughts, and clarify them so that they are readable to another, to me even (I am learning as I go). As this quote explains it, writing is also a way that helps me think.

“The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think.”

~ Edwin Schlossberg

In writing out my thoughts and processes I hope to understand myself better, and maybe help someone else to do the same. In June as part of my “cracking open” I visited the grave of Henry David Thoreau. I first read Thoreau in High School and again in my early 20s. I know his writing affected me deeply, but I had not specifically thought about it in a long time. When I was back in Massachusetts in August I took my husband with me to the grave, and we also visited Walden Pond. Recalling Thoreau’s writings and philosophy, and actually seeing the place where this took place made me really think about what I want, what I need at this point in life. There is that part of me that desires, has always desired, a simpler life in accordance with nature. I have fantasized steadfast cabins in the mountains and bucolic working farms ( I would raise sheep, and spin wool, and have hands the smell of lanolin), but in reality I am a modern girl. While the idea of being truly self-sustaining appeals I know it is more work than I would manage well. So instead I simplify. Get rid of the fluff and glitz and try to pare my life down to what I truly need, which I have come to realize includes quite a number of shoes (forgive my stretch of the word need). As I slowly purge my surroundings of extraneous material goods (shiny things still make me think twice), I start thinking about technology. The work I have come to love requires a computer. I love my digital artwork, and although I am a lousy typist I have come to prefer the keyboard to the pen when I write. When I stood in Walden woods looking at the replica of Thoreau’s tiny one room cabin I asked my self:  If Henry were living now what would he do? Likely he would be appalled as I am by what we have done to the place, but as a victim of the same society he chose not to conform to, it is even more difficult today to escape it. There are many that believe we are past the point of return in destroying this planet and I do not disagree, but as long as we are here we have an obligation to try. I imagine that the Henry of today would still be a naturalist and a transcendentalist or some more recent manifestation, perhaps even a libertarian, but he would not discount technology as useless (what’s on Henry’s ipod?). Rather, realizing as he did then, that having a voice and letting it be heard is the only free means of soliciting change, he would maybe have considered a blog. Facebook, NOT but a blog maybe (imagines Henry playing mafia wars). Regardless, I have decided that for me this is the best way to work out my thoughts for now. Hopefully I’ll engage a few readers, maybe spur a dialogue, but at the very least I will have spoken.

As I said I will be tracking my work in the teleclass here, but also allowing my art, and stories of the past to come as they may. Right now I am trying to wrap myself around the idea that I can use my creative gifts as a vehicle for bigger work in the world. I am open to all possibilities.

I leave you with another quote by Thoreau, as I stand up to live. BTW I do not have an ipod or iphone 🙂

“Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.”


About gwyn michael

A wife, friend, and Mother with no children. A lifelong artist, explorer, and seeker of knowledge. A determined creator with a unique and endless vision. A passionate lover of life and all it brings, light and dark, funny and tragic. Hopelessly optimistic. A Painter, photographer, crafter, student, teacher, writer and more. Inspired. Imaginative. Involved. Curious. Creative. Just a little bit crazy, in the good way.
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8 Responses to What Would Henry Do?

  1. Sarah says:

    Yay, a post! 🙂

    One lesson I have to learn in many areas of life is to SHOW UP. I struggle with keeping up with my blog, but want it there and want to share there. I think I need to just show up to it more often and let myself write.

    I’m having fun imagining what Henry would have on his i-Pod. LOL

  2. gwyn michael says:

    Thanks Sarah! You make am excellent point about showing up. That is the beginning always. We both need to work on that 🙂

  3. Gwyn, I find your blog … simply … beautiful.

    There was something you said that reeeeaaallllyyy grabbed me:

    “I can use my creative gifts as a vehicle for bigger work in the world. I am open to all possibilities.”

    Gwyn, that is exactly what I’ve been brewing in my head for the last 2 weeks … the tele-coaching ‘work’ we’ve been doing with Patti and David and the group … has hatched lots of new things for me – memories, ideas, insights, some pain, a lot of joy – oh, and plenty of possibilities. Random thoughts that used to swirl about, well, RANDOMLY – now they’re nesting. Taking on a life of their own.

    Like the birds that you – and I – adore.

    Keep up your blogging – you have so much to say, and so much to share with others.

    Davielle in California

  4. Austen says:

    Technology as a communicative tool can be quite positive. It’s negative comes when it prevents us from engaging life fully–something it easily seems to do.

    I, too, strive to simplify and encourage creative arts as a way to more fully suck the marrow from life and live with mindfulness of my actions. You well capture some of the tension in such efforts. I hope you continue blogging.


  5. Grace Bower says:

    Would you believe you wrote this on my birthday last year – a year since Patti had published her LIAV and The day I turned 64 with the Beatles song ringing in my ear!!. So glad i didn’t know what was ahead but I’m nearly ready to tuen 65 and I am at the place you were at a year ago. I don’t want to write but I know I must. So you give me the courage to start my blog and see what happens – maybe I will get to Thoureau’s grave site too in the next year. I definitely hope i get to meet Patti face to face as I have learnt so much from her over this last year.

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