We Took to the Woods

I always have a book that I’m reading and a stack of books I plan to read at some point, but lately, with work being so busy that I rarely get to take a lunch break to sit and read, I have been going through books so slowly, it’s embarrassing.

My family surely gets bored of me talking about “that book I’m reading” especially if it’s a really good one, like the one I just finished: We Took to the Woods by Louise Dickinson Rich (also known to my family these past, long weeks as “that book I’m reading about the lady in Maine”). This book affected me so that I’ve been telling everyone about it for the past month and a half I’ve been reading it.  Most books I read get no more mention than a listing on my Read books shelf on Goodreads, but I think that We Took to the Woods deserves more.

The book is an account of the Rich family living in very rural northern Maine in the mid-1930s.  They have no electricity or running water, yet they want for nothing and they are as perfectly content as you could imagine. Louise, who wrote this book in her early-30s, was a wife and mother and keen observer of the world.  She was fearless and hilarious and I have never been a notes-in-the-margins kind of a reader, but this book caused me to turn up the corners of many pages so I could refer back to some of her fantastic passages.

Talking about walking up to the lake to view the “exotic” river drivers moving logs down stream for the first time:

I’ll admit I was in a dither. The men in my life to date had been distinguished more for their intelligence, good citizenship, and consideration for their mothers than for dashing and romantic attributes.  The most athletic played good tennis.  The most daring crossed streets between traffic lights and talked back to cops. I’d never known any men in the business of danger.

On a conversation with her husband Ralph:

Every married woman knows the look he gave me—the very special look husbands save for their wives when they say something more than usually stupid; the look combines in equal proportions disgust, resignation, and nausea, with a dash of dismay at the prospect of living to be a grandfather with such a half-wit.

And this perfect passage that sums up my feelings exactly. We don’t live in the woods as Louise did, but we live farther out than a lot of our friends do, and coming to our house is usually a trip for them:

We have swell friends, as I suppose everyone has, and we’d much rather see them here, undiluted by people we don’t like than Outside. So if they are willing to put up with my off-hand meals for the sake of lounging around in their oldest clothes and being free to do and say what they please; if they are willing to swap their own good beds for our not-so-good ones plus a lot of excellent scenery and fishing; if they want to take the long, involved trip in with nothing much at the end except us and the assurance that they are very much more than welcome, why, that’s the way we want it, too. And that’s the way we have it.

There were so many more dog-eared corners of this book with countless passages that I loved, but rather than bore you, I encourage you to read it for yourself. You will feel blessed with all that you have now, and maybe like me, will feel like running deeper into the woods to live more simply, as Louise did.

And now, before you hop over to Amazon to purchase your own copy, because sorry, but I’m not lending mine out for fear that I might not get it back, one last gem from Louise that ends the book:

Discontent is only the fear of missing something. Content is the knowledge that you aren’t missing a thing worth-while.


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