That was Henry David Thoreau’s main theme from Walden, or Life In The Woods.
This is the time of year I think about Thoreau. The world outdoors is green and warming and inviting. And Thoreau is always reminding us to pay attention and enjoy the everyday pleasures of a beautiful sunset or a reflection on a pond.
About 15 years ago I was on a business trip to Concord, Massachusetts. My hosts had arranged for me to stay in a house that sits upon property that had been surveyed by Thoreau himself. And each day I walked into the very village that Thoreau had been so anxious to leave. In doing so, I passed the homes of many of his contemporaries: Emerson, Hawthorne, the Alcotts.
I even paid a visit to Walden Pond one evening where I saw a replica of the little 10-by-15 building where Mr. Thoreau lived for more than two years. My garage is more than twice as big. And probably more comfortable.
I’m guessing Thoreau would have been appalled by my life during my 2004 stay in Concord.
For starters, my friends had put me up at a place called The Hawthorne Inn, on property owned more than a hundred years ago by the inn’s namesake, Nathaniel Hawthorne. And located barely two miles from the aforementioned Walden Pond.
I still have the brochure from the Hawthorne Inn. Here’s what it said about the place:
“Proudly we offer you the comfort of seven vibrant guestrooms whose gracious appointments are inspired by a refreshing sense of tradition mixed with the unexpected. All accommodations possess private ensuite bath replete with abundant amenities. Our overnight guests enjoy complimentary breakfast served each morning, on hand-painted Dedham pottery, around a convivial common table.”
Do you hear Mr. Thoreau gagging? In his words: “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.”
When you are talking bed-and-breakfast, I have to agree.
Allow me to translate the brochure:
“Gracious appointments” means all kinds of foo-foo stuff in the room: frilly toilet paper covers, frilly canopy bed, antique velvet chairs and chaise, teeny little antique desk and dresser. Like that.
“Sense of tradition mixed with the unexpected” means there is no TV, no internet connection, nothing but old fashioned stationary and envelopes.
“Bath replete with abundant amenities” means lots of perfumy shampoos, lotions and sprays. Opening any bottle on the bathroom set my sinuses back six months. What kind of man lives in a place like that?
“Enjoy a complimentary breakfast… around a convivial table” means — and this is really going too far for me — means you are expected to TALK to a bunch of strangers at breakfast.
When it comes to breakfast away from home, Thoreau and I are in complete agreement. He said: “I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude."
And that breakfast, mind you, was a foo-foo breakfast: dried cranberry granola; some sort of fruit bread; curious cheeses that almost every guest confused with the butter (the butter was actually hidden in the Dedham pottery rabbit-shaped butter dish); and herbal teas that would make the people at Lipton laugh out loud. I was longing for raisin bran and a simple banana by the second day.
In summary, I love Concord, Massachusetts. I enjoy the history, the houses, the beautiful old town and, yes, Walden Pond. In fact, I have been back twice since that memorable B&B experience.
But on each of those return visits I stayed at the Best Western with free wi-fi and a television in every room.
That’s simple enough for me.
Jim Busek is a free-lance writer who lives in Norwalk. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected] hotmail.com.