A Quiet Day by the Fire

It was cold here today, the temperature down into the 20s when I woke up this morning. So I built up a fire in the fireplace, and planned to spend my day sitting in close proximity to the fire, reading, and not doing much else. To that end, I was mostly successful.

I finished reading Simon Winchester’s new book, Land: How the Hunger for Ownership Shaped the Modern World. A good book, as I find just about all of Winchester’s books to be. The book rekindled my yearning for wide-open spaces. A passage on suburbs, which could describe the area in which I live just south of Washington, D.C., highlights the artifice which, like a poorly fitting show rubbing away at a heel, bothers me more and more.

In the suburbs beyond the urban limits, the degradation of the land has been more insidious, its demoted status often cunningly disguised. Such land as appears to exist is mostly artifice, a simulacrum of countryside, the greenest of its expanses available at great expense to the golfer or more ironically to the members of what for the past two centuries have been called country clubs. These last are institutions placed well beyond the real country they seek to resemble and offer a reminder—for a considerable annual fee—of the rural dreamland that some old-timers recall went before.

Meanwhile, I kept warm in my suburban home by my neat fireplace, with wood I avoided chopping myself (I enjoy chopping wood but there is no practical way for me to do it here) and every now and then, paused to dream of wide-open spaces.

Next up, for those curious, is Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace’s book, Creativity, Inc., about which I have heard many good things. Winchester’s Land had me leaning toward something by or about John Muir, but I don’t have the heart for that at the moment.


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