Of Dusty Footpaths and The Last Homely House

I’ve been thinking about old pubs, long hikes, greeting people on the road. Simplicity and true social interaction (as opposed to this electronic thing). A blog I am following has stirred this post and imagery up in my mind – called up stuff from almost 30 years of thinking and reading.

So I guess I still pine, sometimes, for an era I never saw, where it wasn’t buzz-buzz-buzz all the long day. When a man took a constitutional hike, had time to meet folks, didn’t quaff coffee en-route a 15-16 hour day that ended six hours into the next one. Sometimes I’ve been told, and even occasionally had a fleeting belief that such utopian silliness is just that, and there has never been such an age where things were simple, low-key and real.

Tolkien, Lewis, Herriot, Graham. They set the scene for me way way back and it never left. Just gets clouded over or burned out by the days in which I find myself. Ever think about just walking, for an hour or six, with just a friend, talking when it happened, or just breathing the air and taking in the land? Reading The Wind in the Willows, Watership Down, the Hobbit, The Trumpet of the Swan and a multitude of other books, mostly titles forgotten, contributed very early on to the building of a little corner in my mind that is quieter, lonesome and sort of at peace; entirely contradicting the normal routine of my days.

Not that I’m advocating monasticism or a mass retreat back to some golden age. There really are plenty of folk out there who are thick in the midst of the global glob, right where they belong. And there’s where many or maybe most should be. What’s to hurt if one guy who dreams about this stuff drops off the grid and lets the rest sort of spin around him. I suppose that would require a receptive environment (IOW unlike Sandy Eggo). Just being tangled up in my family and a local job, knowing the neighbors and having little, if any knowing of the guys a thousand miles away.

Doesn’t the world ever get just a little too big? Like you’re a little wood-chip floating on the surface of Lake Tahoe or something? Could there not be some guardians, last little homes on the edge of the wild? I can easily daydream of overgrown cottages, virtually invisible in the clutter of hay and weeds, all but forgotten. Except the quiet folk who inhabit those little places.

Quiet folk that simply are. They’re there in the world, yet not in everything. They hold opinions on what they need to and nothing more. They can tell you where the food is best or where to find a quiet day. They can  take you to the little church where a similar man maintains the homely place, preaching on Sunday and helping others the following six days. 1 Thessalonians 4, though not directly dealing with my theme, still serves to quench some of the intensity of my days, leading me back ’round to all these images.

“…But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.”

But I think maybe sometimes we spread ourselves too thin. All over a city rather than a local circuit. We’re so commonly cruising the globe on an airship made of electrons where some might really need to be hiking a countryside that’s limited to how far a man can walk in a day. I get overwhelmed more often than not, with the immensity of all the world.

Sometimes I’d like to think that, one day, people will think of me as a sort of fixture, a fitting part of a place, only knowing what’s worth knowing and maybe just a little center of homely peace. Surely quite unlike what I am right now.

Heinlein said specialization is for insects. I think that’s pretty much right, but it does break down at some point. You can spread yourself so thinly over a broad enough area (culture, society, issues, skillsets) that there is no longer any value in any one of them. I think I’ve done more “outside” my life than in it. And it’s become ingrained too – high speed/low drag, as we say in my occupation.

Tolkien leads me to wonder what more could I be to my little life-realm if it was all reigned back in and could be found on a map of the shire. Hobbits didn’t mess with the rest of the map unless they were, and few were, called to the outside. Funny thing is, I still don’t “feel” called. Though I’ve been here for so long.

To think of what I could think of,
were my thoughts thought so much closer to home.
Instead of spread like a spider’s web
across the sea and stone.


5 responses to “Of Dusty Footpaths and The Last Homely House

  • RubeRad

    Sounds like you need a vacation! I wish I had some good tips for you for life simplification. At least you are in a religion that relies on ordinary means of grace, rather than EXTRAORDINARY FEATS OF ECSTASY!!!!

  • Pooka

    Heh. More like a, whatchamacallit? Sabbatical? Maybe a year doing something completely different just to get it out of my system.

    You’re right, though. This ordinary means of grace is like water on the fire. Sunday after Sunday, a reset comes around.

    And in the end, what I “feel” ain’t what I am. So I beat that little bugger back down whenever possible.

  • lleweton

    There’s a house in our town which was once a pub. Mrs Llew and I think it looks as if it belongs in Hobbiton. We wish it were still an inn. As to whether we spread ourselves too far -and too thinly – Tennyson’s words come to me:

    Flower in the crannied wall,
    I pluck you out of the crannies;—
    Hold you here, root and all, in my hand,
    Little flower—but if I could understand
    What you are, root and all, and all in all,
    I should know what God and man is.

  • Pooka


    And so, too much delving, chasing the winds of things are asking to see behind the curtain. And perhaps we do more damage to ourselves because of this. In seeking more, I find more to seek.

    Tells me I should go have a beer and a pipe with a good friend, just one (or two), and talk about what matters right now. Rather that than time alone pursuing all these little threads which may or may not coalesce to points of salient lights – which may or may not be of lasting value. At least all this in context of this frame.

    Eternity may play out entirely different, but I can’t play with that. Much, anyway.

  • Pooka

    I admit, I have a fascination for Llew. I read Lawhead’s “Silver Hand” trilogy long ago, and much of the imagery remains. The fact that your place in time and space corresponds is simply fitting. Had I the time and money, I’d find a way out there, East of Here, to meet and tell you of our interestingly, and sadly related stories. Email me sometime, friend of the Kindly West.

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