Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Walking to Fitchburg

Thoreau wrote: "The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it."

There is a lovely series of children's picture books, by DB Johnson, based on Thoreau's counting up of costs. For example, in Henry Hikes to Fitchburg, Henry's friend works all day to buy a train ticket that will take him to Fitchburg. Meanwhile, Henry walks to Fitchburg, having a wonderful day out.

It's a devilish business, this counting up of costs. I live without television six months of the year, and have a bit more "life" instead. I walk more than I drive, but I couldn't get along without a car. A year ago while preparing for a book tour I got a cell phone for convenience, but it's hardly been used; the amount of "life" I had to exchange for it was too high. I recently acquired a DSL internet connection here on the island, after years of slow, unreliable and infuriating dial-up. I think the new service is saving time for "life," although I wouldn't bet on it; I'm certainly using the internet more.

I try to remember that part of what brought me to this island was the tropical, nothing-quite-works, walk-to-Fitchburg languor.