Journal Entry, September 4, 2017
Many, many people, including my oldest daughter, Becca, who is way smarter than I was at her age—and a better writer than I am now—ask me the same question, posed in different words:
“So are you trying to emulate Thoreau?”
“Did Walden inspire you?”
“Do you have any quotes from Henry David Thoreau tacked up inside your Tiny White Box?
The answers are no, no and no. As a well-read man, I will confess I’ve never stomached anything by Henry David Thoreau. I’ve tried to read Walden, but have never been able to get past the first 30 pages without developing a sincere and deep dislike of Thoreau’s self-satisfied and superior tone. I mean, for Chrissakes, he was about three miles from Concord in his cabin by the pond, but he sounded so above the mass of men leading lives of quiet desperation. At the same time he was getting back to nature, Mark Twain was in the west when it was the West and thousands, nay hundreds of thousands, of Thoreau’s fellow Americans were slowly but surely moving the frontier farther from New England and Thoreau’s little indoor camping trip.
In the Tiny White Box, there is no Internet, making research of any kind difficult, my tiny library here including no compendia of quotes from transcendental New England twits of two centuries ago, so I must rely on memory for Thoreau’s work. The only quote of his that’s ever really inspired me is:
“Beware enterprises requiring new clothes.”
I’m not sure how to write the opposite of “requiring new clothes,” but that’s the category the Tiny White Box falls into, requiring as it did the shedding of clothes, or at least the casting off of much of my wardrobe. It pains me to admit it, but last January, when I began to plot this adventure, I had more than two dozen pairs of shoes. Think about that. I could wear a different pair of shoes every day for more than three weeks—and tried to. I’m now down to four pairs, and even that seems excessive. An inventory:
Two pairs of Timberland hiking boots
One pair of Bass boat shoes
One pair of two-tone go-to-town shoes
I’ve also got a warm pair of slippers for inside the Tiny White Box and a pair of Teva sandals for wearing in the outdoor shower. And a pair of Arctic snow boots inside a box marked “winter gear.”
This enterprise, in short, did not require new clothes!
Choosing to live in a Tiny White Box, then, has absolutely nothing to do with Henry David Thoreau or Ralph Waldo Emerson or any other three-named dandy of 1840s New England. Some of you may have read of my earlier experiment, while I was still at Liberty House, in which I lived in a converted enclosed cargo trailer in the woods on the property of Alaya and John Chadwick. That box, at almost 200 square feet, was cavernous compared to the Tiny White Box at six feet by ten feet (60 square feet for those of you still in second grade), and could almost be broken into “rooms” of a sort. My girlfriend at the time referred to the trailer as if it were a tomb—and since I was moving out of sharing a home with her at the same time, I can now understand why.
The Tiny White Box comes not from Walden, but from a desire to get used to staying in a small wooden container for extended periods of time. With 60 in sight, I know the future may hold an even smaller box for me. I do hope it has Internet access so I can make a stronger case against Thoreau in the future.