simple things

When Henry started this blog five years ago, it was an attempt to record the simple, everyday joys of life. A virtual cabin in the woods, as my subtitle says. As blogs go, it was all over the map. It could be about anything, which in the blogging world really means it could be, Seinfeld-like, about nothing. Successful, syndicated blogs usually do one thing very well. They become time-tested, predictable products that readers can rely on day after day to give them exactly what they want and expect. It could be cooking, music, politics, sports, etc. You know exactly what you’re going to get that when you go to Politico, Deadspin, Daily Beast or HuffPo. Here, Henry tried (and tries) to do something different. Like the Ming Dynasty text called the Caigentan, or “Root Vegetable Discourse“, I’ve tried to offer up varied bits of wisdom based on my experiences enjoying the simple pleasures of life. The title of this text comes from the Chinese proverb that “One who has eaten vegetable roots for lack of anything better can accomplish anything,” or perhaps more succinctly “One who has gone through hardships can do anything.” The way I’ve understood this text is “You will be unable to find joy in this lifetime unless you can find joy in the simple pleasures of living.” I’ve written about decaying Pocono resorts, creepy naked guys, shoegaze bands, snakes falling from the sky, Bruce, and Buddha. One of the easiest ways we can enjoy the simple things in life is to take a trip to the beach. No person can stand before the ocean and not feel reborn. Now that summer is here in Maine where Henry lives, he would like to give his advice for a perfect day at the beach. There are only a few rules you need to follow. 1. Buy a State of Maine park pass. If you can afford it. This year it costs $70 and lasts all the way until December 2012. Considering the fact that it costs about $10-15 every time Henry takes his family of four to the beach, you only have to use it about five times before it virtually pays for itself. 2. Eat a big breakfast. And drink plenty of water. That way, you start the day fully nourished and hydrated and you won’t have to schlep the entire contents of your fridge to the ocean’s edge. 3. Pack light. This is ancillary to #2 above. The bigger your breakfast, the less food you’ll need to bring. Henry knows this might be tough when you have kids, but parents don’t need to give their kids snacks every fifteen minutes. It’s OK to be hungry. Additionally, if kids don’t ask for food, don’t offer it to them. Pack only what you need. In my case that would be water, an apple, sunscreen, and a towel. Maybe a book, although strangely enough, I usually don’t read at the beach. Under perfect conditions, everything you bring should fit in one medium-sized backpack. 4. Pick an old favorite… You know where your favorite beaches are. Going back over and over to the same spot is not necessarily a bad thing. Shifting ocean currents can remake a sandy shoreline overnight. Temperature, wind, humidity, and the quality of sunlight can make two different visits to the same beach radically different experiences. 5…or try something new. Take a chance. Branch out. Hike to a deserted beach and take your clothes off. It doesn’t even have to be a beach. Tap into local folklore. Don’t be afraid to ask the guy at the general store about the secret swimming hole. Go skinny-dipping in the rain. Cultivate peak experiences. Thoreau moved into a cabin and went swimming in Walden Pond in order to live deliberately. You can too. But watch out for the snapping turtles.

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