Burning Down the House


I had three pieces of limestone on my desk, but I was terrified to find that they required to be dusted daily, when the furniture of my mind was all undusted still, and I threw them out the window in disgust. How, then, could I have a furnished house? I would rather sit in the open air, for no dust gathers on the grass, unless where man has broken ground.

— Henry David Thoreau, Walden

We’ve got a number of uncontrolled fires burning in Southern California. It’s raining ash out of a darkened sky in Orange County, where I live, although we’re nowhere near the actual fires.

A colleague at work has a home in Rancho Cucamonga, near the largest fire. Yesterday, his wife was trying to salvage a few things before evacuating.

I was thinking, if I were in his situation, what would I want to save? A few photo albums maybe?

I’ve tried and failed for years to instill more of a Walden-like simplicity into my life, but it’s hard if you live with someone who tends to keep things forever, including the boxes they came in.

I read once about a primitive tribe that every year gathers all its possessions and burns them in an annual rite of renewal. This has always seemed like an appealing idea to me.

I feel like watching everything I own go up in flames (fully insured, of course) would not be a sad occasion at all — more like a rebirth . . .

  1 comment for “Burning Down the House

  1. Avatar
    27 Oct 2008 at 2:51 pm

    Just went through your pages. Nuzzle my reliable cd Nice joke! What has more lives than a cat? A frog. It croaks every night.

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