“All Our Bags Are Packed”

The tranquil life 6


We’re not leaving on a jet plane, but we are leaving for a while, five nights at a desert resort in Tucson, Arizona, which is rapidly becoming our home away from home. It’s because of the lives we lead these days. She is increasingly busy with her job, and I with the huge volume of work I must do for our remodeling plans. More and more, our lives seem to be hurry, hurry, hurry, with very little in the way of a break from it or a little time for each other. And it is this last that we most yearn for.


Anyone following us around in Tucson would surely wonder what the attraction is. We rarely do anything in the way of sightseeing. This time round we’ve made plans to take in Old Tucson Studios, in part because we want to see it a second time, in larger part because we want to buy some souvenirs for our next door neighbors, two young boys who will surely eat that up. But that one-day trip is for us very much of a rarity. Most of the time we go no further than a few miles from the resort itself: to restaurants, a favorite used book store for me, shops for her. What we mostly do is simply spend time with each other. It is such an incredible luxury to get up in the morning when we feel like it, have coffee for as long as we want to, go to a breakfast so late it’s brunch, walk hither and yon holding hands. And talk and laugh and be. With each other and only with each other.


I have always been very driven to create, which is surely why my woodworking projects have such a tendency to take on a life of their own. They’re much too complex at times, but my modus operandi has never changed. First I make drawings of what I want to do for a project. Then I go about figuring out how in the hell I’m going to pull that off! But with all of that, and with all of the time I spent learning how to write, I never once wanted to work without rest for years at a time. If I had my wish, I would be writing award-winning novels, working just four hours every morning.


The tranquil life 2There are times when I’m working when I’m not working at all, and especially so when I am writing. Back in the years when I wrote in longhand and got up at 3:45 every morning to pursue my dreams before leaving for a full day’s work at 8:00 a.m. I would often go into the study with a hot cup of coffee and go right to work on a passage. I would eventually lean back in the chair to read over what I’d written, take a sip of coffee, and be shocked to discover that it was then ice-cold. It’s because I’m so focused. I go to work, and the rest of the world drops away from me. But for all that I love to work at times, I love life much more, and I especially love being with Christine.


One of the quotes I often trot out in such a discussion is from Mahatma Gandhi, “There is more to life than increasing its speed.” It’s a saying that has been with me so long that I really cannot remember when it was not, but even before I read it, I lived it. I do think Americans have always moved too fast, a syndrome that has only grown worse in recent years. Ironically enough, the very technology I am using to urge a slowdown is the very thing that has done so much to speed us up these days! The problem with iPhones and texting and so forth is that we never really leave the office, because it’s always with us. And being always with us, it rapidly becomes the day that never ends. I don’t have such a thing and have long since left the world of business, but back in those days, I always knew that what I most wanted was a little less. I read Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden” in the fall of 1981, and I was never the same after that. The following year we moved to San Diego and began restructuring our lives. One of the passages that stayed with me is this:


“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.


“When we consider what, to use the words of the catechism, is the chief end of man, and what are the true necessaries and means of life, it appears as if men had deliberately chosen the common mode of living because they preferred it to any other. Yet they honestly think there is no choice left. But alert and healthy natures remember that the sun rose clear.”


I have always felt drawn to that man, not to every single thing he says, of course, but the main message, that of living a more measured and meaningful life, has always resonated with me. It’s what I so enjoy about my time with Christine, just to revel in her, her laugh, her spirit, her all. We work so hard these days, but to what purpose? One of the quotes that has been making the Internet Rounds recently is from the current Dalai Lama. When he was asked what most surprised him about humanity, he said,



Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.

Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.

And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present;

The result being that he does not live in the present or the future;

He lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”


In any case I am going to Tucson this coming week, and that is where I will be. I’d leave a number where I can be reached, but I don’t want to be reached. I want to commune with nature and the desert and Christine.



2 Responses to ““All Our Bags Are Packed””

  • Joe D. says:

    Nice post Joseph. Enjoy your vacation!


  • James Dibben says:

    Have a great vacation, Joe!

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