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Why we went to the woods

Updated: Jan 22, 2023

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what they had to teach. And not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Henry David Thoreau’s words from “Why I Went to the Woods” (a chapter in his famous book Walden) resonate often in my mind, but never more than when I’m going to the woods. I’m going to the woods today–to the mountains, rivers and soft landscapes of the Colorado winter.

This place is a sabbatical for me. I need sabbaticals–away from the world for a while so that my brain that needs quietude has space to process. Here is my chance to see my son and to see the world through the lens of his experience and thinking. To hike, bike, snowshoe, climb, ski or just sit…savor time, savor the woods, savor the peaks rising against the sunset. Time feels infinite here.

While I am enjoying the beauty of the aspen groves and the quieting snow, Rachel is spending time among the cedars and the rolling landscapes of the Texas Hillcountry. While we hold our time together dear, we know it is important to make space for individual growth and reflection. So we go, separately but together, to allow ourselves to enjoy the unhurried ways of the natural world.

But we do not live in the woods. 

We live a noisy life in Cibolo, Texas, in a house full of grandson’s toys, with chickens in the yard letting me know I’m late with dinner, with flour on every surface, the herbal smell of yesterday’s soap is in the air, alongside the savory comforting smell of bread baking. I’m often working side by side with that bubbly creative daughter of mine, whose brain is brimming with the next great idea for Green Valley Simple Living! And we usually have market or class–TOMORROW!!! Time is NOT infinite when class is TOMORROW!

But maybe it is. Even amid the chaos of real life, we can still practice Festina Tarde ‘ - the art of “making haste slowly”–we can still slow down and be still. We can still be present. Bread rising won’t be rushed. Yogurt culture takes time. Pasta dough has to chill and rest to be worked into beautiful noodles. 

There’s a lesson here, huh? 

I think that the mission of teaching sustainability and homesteading is to share Rachel’s and my way of living “in the woods.” Living deliberately. Loving the life we’ve chosen. Engaging with the essential facts and ingredients of life to see what they have to teach us. And, I think, to see what we have to offer this circle, this cycle of life and love, by teaching others.

Thoreau also said that he had “never found a companion so companionable as solitude,” but I’m not sure I can go there with him. Yes, solitude is beautiful and, for me, sometimes necessary for my best life, but what are we without community?

Community. What does that mean? For me, it means small. An interdependent circle. Trust. Knowing and being known. 

And I think that’s what Green Valley Simple Living is all about.  And that’s why I’m so glad that Rachel has invited me to join in on this next chapter that began so long ago with Green Valley Natural Soap Company.

So join us. Be our community. In class, at market, or just on this blog, if you like, as we consider the various aspects of living deliberately, of living sustainably, of growing community, and finding Everyday Alchemy–the magic in every single day.

Some blogs may be about the fickleness of jam that won’t set or the sourdough starter that didn’t start! Some will be light hearted, and others may be a bit thoughtful. 

Who knows where we will go? But let’s go together.

-- Mary Holman-Anderson

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Love what you are both doing!

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Come play with us, Susan! Bring the grand niece:) we would love to see you ❤️ from Mary

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