Doug Bruns

What we own.

In Memoir, Nature, The Examined Life, Wisdom on August 9, 2012 at 6:00 am

My Maryland Woods

I am traveling to Maryland next week to work on the house and property I (still) own there. Suffice it to say I anticipate the real estate market will have returned enough by next spring to put it on the market. It is a nice house and sits on several acres of wooded land. It butts up against a state-owned watershed of several thousand acres and sits astride a thirty-acre preserve. It is remote, as property in the mid-atlantic goes, and afforded me a great deal of pleasure over many years.

The property is home to white-tailed deer, fox, box turtles, birds of prey, song birds, snakes and various other critters. During hunting season, the deer congregate in our woods. It is a place of refuge. It is a place I appreciate, an environment akin to my sensibilities. But eventually the congestion, the crowds, the traffic, and the weather, became too much to bear and we escaped north in pursuit of a simpler life.

Simple remains out of reach, however, while tethered to the property. Indeed, it became glaringly apparent after living there that the things we own eventually come to own us. This is a bit of wisdom I came late to realize. I am still owned by too many things and, like a snake, have been attempting to shed the skin of my slavery for some time.

I cannot explain properly how I came to this place. The metaphor of a slippery slope comes to mind, but I attempt to avoid cliché when possible. In sum, I lost the vision of my aesthetic for life. Regardless, it is an awkward position for a man who grew up chanting Thoreau’s admonition to “Simplify, simplify, simplify.” It is not too late (yet) to rectify. I have time, but not forever.


Thanks for reading.

  1. Earlier this year I went through a period of purging…minimizing…and organizing. It definitely clears the head!

  2. Love the picture. Frame-worthy!

    Fellow empty-nesters were recently visiting with us for wine on the deck. They had expressed interest in downsizing from their large famly home on the western prom. The “sights, smells and sounds” of the harbor predictably charmed them (well, maybe not the sounds), but as they looked at the space itself, and asked where the storage was, they concluded they had too much stuff to move to someplace so small.

    I send loving-kindness their way.

    • The traveling monk with nothing but an alms bowl–no need for pockets even…

      I’ve written about the youthful summer I spent in the mountains living only with the contents of my backpack. I didn’t even travel with a tent. The memory is one of purest experience. Our respective “little houses” afford us a similar grown-up pleasure.

      I am curious regarding the movement to “one hundred essential things.” I wonder if that includes books? (Does a book on an iPad count as two, the book and the iPad? Or only one, for the iPad? An eternal modern version of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?)

      Thanks for the note.

  3. Nice photo, Doug.

    • Thanks, Jack. That was one of the very first photos I took with my old Hasselblad PanX. (Black and white film.) I loved everything about that camera.

  4. Last night Doug asked me if “I missed Maryland”. At first I thought he was kidding, then as I realized he was serious, I forcefully said “NO”! I was horrified at the tiniest possibility that it might be true- that he might in some way wish to return to Maryland. I tell friends and acquaintances often how I have found peace in Maine. The thought of losing that newfound peace (that has eluded me for a lot of my life) sent a shiver through me. I love my new simple life. It feels unburdened and free- not completely of course but free-er. I will be traveling as well to the property to work. For me, its about checking things off the list, I have already moved on. There is no “missing” for me.

    • What I miss: sitting in my woods watching the deer move; the fox against the snow on Christmas morning; and waking up to the sound of song birds. For these things I would not forsake my beloved Maine–but they are missed.

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