I get something called the “Daily Literary Quote” on my Internet home page. Sometimes they’re thought-provoking; sometimes they’re cheesy. Yesterday, this was the quote:
“The most characteristic mark of a great mind is to choose some one important object, and pursue it for life.”
~ Anna Letitia Barbauld ( English poet)
I’m sorry, Ms. Barbauld, but I must strongly disagree! My mind may not be considered a “great mind” when compared to, say, Mozart, or Shakespeare, or Hildegaard von Bingen. But I’m on the higher end on the IQ scale. I’m no dummy.
I could not possibly choose one important object to pursue for life. In fact, what makes my life so interesting is that I pursue so many important objects.
Yes, I’m a writer. That’s my profession as well as my avocation, and when I’m writing, I’m writing as if there were nothing I’d rather be doing. I write from my heart, from my toes, from my soul. Writing, when I am doing it, is the one important object I am pursuing for life.
But sometimes, I’m not writing. Today, for example. While you are all sitting at your computers reading this post, I’m off with Scott having breakfast at a little café in Palm Springs, carbo-loading for our hike through the Indian Canyons at the base of Mt. San Jacinto. Hiking in the desert wilderness, just Scott and me, and the lizards, and the snakes, and the dragonflies. And from experience, I know I’ll be feeling like I’m in the single most beautiful place in all the deserts in all the world. I’ll be feeling like I never want to return to civilization (if you can count our little cottage on the hill as civilization). Hiking, exploring, sticking my feet in an icy mountain pool beneath a snow-melt waterfall or plunging them deep into the desert sands, will be the one important object I will want to pursue for life.
Writing + Hiking = two, not one, important objects.
Camping! I think back on the two magical trips to the Sierras we took last summer: one to Kings Canyon on the west side of the mountains, and one to Mammoth Lakes on the east side. I experienced one of the most sacred experiences of my existence at Kings Canyon last summer, my baptism in the Kings River. At Mammoth Lakes, we snuggled down warm and cozy in our sleeping bags, a sleeping Tufa between us, and rode out the wildest thunderstorm I’ve ever experienced (and mind you, this coming from a woman who took a direct hit in the neck from a bolt of lightning 24 years ago). When Scott and I are camping, I feel one with the Great Mother, one with Nature. It’s not just a wilderness adventure, it’s a spiritual experience, camping like this. It is the one important object I will want to pursue for life.
Writing + Hiking + Camping = three, not one, important objects.
Of course, I don’t have to leave home to find other important objects to pursue. This past few days, I’ve made eight half-pints of strawberry preserves and six half-pints of grapefruit/orange marmalade, and canned them all nice and pretty. The glass jars with the jewel-toned fruit inside are so beautiful, I almost hate to open them to eat their yummy contents. (Scott, however, has no problem doing this!) Canning, preserving food, is a moment of Zen in my busy days. I focus on preparing the fruit: hulling and mashing the berries, or carefully zesting the grapefruit so no bitter white pith ends up in the mix, measuring fruit and sugar into the pot to cook, sterilizing jars and lids, then quickly canning the fruit and immersing it into the hot water bath for its own baptism. No thoughts cross my mind except as pertain to fruit, sugar, jars. When I am canning, that is the one important object I wish to pursue for life.
Are we still keeping count? I’m up to four. Add to that crocheting hats and afghans and warm mittens for family and friends, reading fabulous books, spending time in the garden, walking Tufa, having dinner with good friends. How could I pursue one of these with more passion than the others?
Admittedly, Anna Letitia Barbauld, who lived 200 years ago, led a different sort of life than I. Women had it harder back then; for that matter, men did too. But even 200 years ago women took hikes in the woods. They camped. They prepared food for their families. They entertained, and were entertained, by friends.
And perhaps this “Daily Literary Quote” is out of context. I tried to research the quote, to see if I could get the context of how it was said, but alas, all I find is the quote itself.
I think for now I’ll just have to disagree with Ms. Barbauld on the matter of pursuing some one important object. I’m too busy pursuing dozens to settle for one. And my life is richer for it.