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Etc - Tired, Busy, Distracted, and Resigned
Eric Tucker writes about the quirky goodness of Monmouth County for Living in Media. He has the rare perspective of a local boy born and raised here, but please don't tell his wife. She's a Bergen County broad.
Fact – the place called Adelphia is an unincorporated expanse of land, mostly in Howell, but extending into sections of Colts Neck, Farmingdale, and Freehold Township. I learned that from my primary source of information,Wikipedia. Interestingly, or not, I’ve labored since childhood under the impression that Farmingdale was part of Howell Township. Apparently, they rebelled and seceded from Howell 108 years ago and didn‘t tell me. Whatever. Back to Adelphia.
These days, revolutions abound. Not so in Adelphia, where the good citizens live in harmony with each other, the rest of Howell, and nature itself. For Adelphia is home to one of my favorite destinations spring, summer, and fall: Turkey Swamp Park. (I don’t go to places in the winter.)
Legend has it that the original park officials elected the name Turkey Swamp to keep the crowds away. It’s a wonderfully awful name. The closest turkey may be at the diner on Route 9. Adelphia, which means brotherhood in French or something, used to be known as Turkey. The sandy soil, close to the water table, gets swampy in the rainy weather. Hence, Turkey Swamp. My father taughtme to learn something new every day. I’m good until Friday.
Being broad minded by nature, the environmentally inclined would likely overlook the name of the park and make favorable comparisons to Walden Woods, which was highly touted by Thoreau. Twenty seven years ago, my kindly freshman composition teacher, who I will call “Mrs. Klingensmith” as that is her name, had us read Thoreau - an author who liked to sit in the woods, night and day, until he needed something to eat. Then he’d walk into town. I think he would have enjoyed a visit to Adelphia’s most famous park.
Incidentally, my teacher went by "Mrs." instead of "Prof." to differentiate her from her husband (may he rest in peace), who went by the name “Mr. Klingensmith” and similarly taught lethargic freshmen how not to write.
Anyway, when it came time to write something, students in the class were each given a famous quotation pulled from the reading material. I got "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." I researched by reading not only the paragraph with that line, but the preceding and subsequent paragraphs, as well. This was years before Wikipedia came to the aid of college freshmen.
I'm sure I did not get over a C+, my writing being what it was. Also, what could I have known about either the mass of men or quiet desperation? Whether the mass of men cried into their pillows at night was not for me to say at the time. The class hadn't discussed it yet.
My family, subjected to living under my roof, benefits from my brief lectures. The quotation I am most apt to assault them with is, "Simplify, simplify, simplify," when it suits my cause. There's too much stuff in this house. Things break and I can't fix anything. Generally, I’m not listening when people talk. However, when I catch on that they are plotting to bring some new technology or clutter-inducing apparatus into the house, particularly when it may cost money, they get my attention. "I believe it was Henry David Thoreau,” I interject “who said 'Simplify, simplify, simplify'...blah, blah, blah" and I go on from there in my best Frau Klingensmith affectation. I added the third "simplify” originally out of ignorance of the original quote. I keep it there now for emphasis.
No doubt our friend was on to something while pontificating. He was known by some as an ugly, overeducated Massachusetts liberal. But, he had his fans. However, he seemed to insinuate that quiet desperation was pathetic or a symptom of a life not well lived. Something we should rearrange our lives to avoid. Now that I've matured enough to grapple with the deep significance of catch-phrases in “Walden,” I have no time to sort it out. I'm a year older than Thoreau was when he died of the tuberculosis. And I’m too tired. Busy and tired. Distracted, too. Busy, tired, and distracted from demands and conflictive desires and limitations and expectations. The interactive and cumulative effect of these would make his consumptive stockings spin. I’m not at liberty to sit in the woods for months or years strolling into town only to mooch a meal. There’s no time for me to develop quotable quotes for use on Jeopardy, like Henry David, or even to read his whole book. It's more heroic to suck it up and carry on. Fix up your house. Save for retirement. And maximize the usefulness of your limited leisure time.
Are we not products of our environments? The following gives a flavor of my childhood environs. My father was never one to spring for dessert. When we went out for dinner, we still ate dessert at home or in the car, if we were “vacationing.” For vacations, we camped. Our first camping trip was to Turkey Swamp, about 20 minutes away, close enough for Dad to go home to walk the dog he didn't like and feed the cat he never wanted. I could go on with similar vignettes; but I'm saving them for future use.
I'll just go ahead and tell you what that environment produces: resignation. Resignation is like a layer of fat that protects your will to live from the corrosion brought on by the disappointment that life brings most of us. The by-products of my environment include a hesitation to order dessert, unless it's included in the kids’ meals, and the resignation that allows me to cope with whatever Thoreau might have been talking about.
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