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Living The Good Life November 4, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Books & Movies, Less IS More, Mindfulness.

Life is not one-size-fits-all.  What makes me happy may not make you happy. 

Nevertheless, the components of a “good life” overlap.  We need something to do, something to think about, and someone to love ~ a balance of mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional.

Some time ago, I read a book about a couple who left New York City to live more sustainably on the soil and found just that balance ~ first in Vermont and later in Maine.

The Good Life: Helen and Scott Nearing’s Sixty Years of Self-Sufficient Living recounts their experiences in vivid detail . . . from building their farmhouse out of stone harvested from the fields to tilling the soil to consuming sustainably grown foods to cutting trees and chopping firewood to stay warm during the long New England winters.

Most days, the couple labored outdoors in the mornings and pursued intellectual interests (reading, writing, and music) inside in the afternoons.   

They raised money in Vermont by tapping the maple trees for sap and boiling it down to maple syrup

In Maine, blueberries became their cash crop.

They enjoyed a very simple vegetarian diet featuring raw salads, fruit, and bread for lunch and hearty soup and stews with bread and fruit for dinner.

Their rigid and rigorous lifestyle included a balance of work and play that suited their intellectual, physical, and emotional needs.  

Scott lived to be 100 (or so) after starting this rural living adventure in his 50’s.

Their choices worked for them.

If we want to live the good life, we need not follow their lead by homesteading in the wilds of New England.  Instead, we can look to our inner compass to discern how to satisfy our physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional needs with something to do, something to think about, and someone to love. 

Aah . . . that’s better!

What about you? 

Would you be happier homesteading in Maine like the Nearings?  Or living on Walden Pond, like Thoreau?  Does an Ashram in India appeal to your inner ascetic?  Or does your life suit you, as is?  

Quote:  Why do we put off living the way we want to live, as if we have all the time in the world?  ~ Barbara de Angelis

Related posts:  Living From The SourceGrow in the Direction of Happiness * 10 Happiness Boosters * Let Billow Your Sails * On With The Dance * I Know What YOU Should Do


1. suzicate - November 4, 2011

Sounds like an aspiring book. Balance in life is always the key.

nrhatch - November 4, 2011

I wouldn’t trade my life for theirs . . . too much snow! But some aspects of it appeal. 😀

2. Andra Watkins - November 4, 2011

True happiness comes from being able to find peace and contentment, whatever our circumstances. (Granted, I don’t often achieve it, but I’m better than I used to be.) I have a piece of dirt in the mountains, and it would be great to finally have a weatherproof structure there as an escape. I couldn’t live there year-round, but, as a place to get away, it would be heaven.

nrhatch - November 4, 2011

Happiness is when what we think, what we say, and what we do are in harmony. ~ Gandhi

And nature nurtures. 😀

3. Cindy - November 4, 2011

And Helen? Betcha she had to do the dishes and floors and died first! Old Scott polly never let the poor lass put her feet up and have a glass of wine … *wink*

nrhatch - November 4, 2011

You are probably right . . .

Scott was a bit of an intellectual snob who sneered at the locals and felt that he (and he alone) had the right formula for life. I would have found living with him a bit unsufferable. 😀

Helen did not die first . . . she was quite a bit younger than Scott. Maybe even 20 years younger. I can’t recall exactly.

4. Jackie L. Robinson - November 4, 2011

Loved going back in my memories to the beauty, abundance and simplicity of life in New England. Those Maine blueberries? Enough to sustain anyone who wishes to just let go of all the ‘stuff’ and honor the joy of BEING. Love the ritual of work in the morning, quiet connection and time for oneself in the afternoon. xo

nrhatch - November 4, 2011

They definitely hit on the right balance for them . . . but their life, overall, didn’t appeal to me.

I’d rather be a barefooted beach bum. 😎

5. Judson - November 4, 2011

I’m afraid I might be a victim of “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” syndrome … I’m really not absolutely certain what sort of lifestyle would be most appealing over the long haul. Part of me always wanted to be a writer. Part of me wanted to be a composer. Part of me wants to spend all my time at the seashore. But, while I write, compose and perform for fun, I’ve worked in a management position for the past 28 years and I have never lived anywhere near the ocean … yet. Meanwhile time’s passing by.

nrhatch - November 4, 2011

If the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence . . . you may be on the wrong side of the fence.

I’ve always wanted to live near the beach and write. Since moving to FL three years ago, I haven’t left . . . nor have I had any inclination to travel outside the state. I am (finally) where I want to be doing what I want to do. It’s a wonderful feeling.

That said, I do NOT have children which gives me a greater freedom than those who are still raising offspring they chose to bring into the world. Sometimes we must honor our obligations to others . . . even if it means postponing our dreams for a time.

Judson - November 4, 2011

I’m glad you said this … what I would do if I had the opportunity versus what I must do because of the obilgations is the biggest issue. However, I did make my own bed, which I now happily will sleep in as Dad and Husband as long as it takes. 🙂 Cheers!

nrhatch - November 4, 2011

For the present, do what you can with what you have where you are . . . your songwriting and open mike nights are definitely a step in the “right” direction.

6. Piglet in Portugal - November 4, 2011

We certainly are all different. I watch some expats drink and party their life away and I think, how shallow. They probably look at me and think, how boring she is – she rarely parties.

I love the idea of living in the middle of nowhere and being self-sufficient, but in reality I know this is not a practical option due to Mr. Piglet’s health.

So what makes us happy? Finding inner peace and living as who we ARE not what others want us to be.

Mr P observed today I did not have a close friend since moving to Portugal and was I lonely?. This leads on to another train of thought…as to how we choose our friends, or do we?

nrhatch - November 4, 2011

They may be doing exactly what they are meant to be doing right now. We need not judge others for the use of THEIR time.

We need only spend OUR time wisely by allowing OUR path to unfold before us.

BFF is the Best Friend I’ve ever had. As long as we’re together, I’m never lonely. 😀

Piglet in Portugal - November 4, 2011

You are right Nancy!
But I can’t help feeling sad for some of my friends who have chosen this path. My Mum is now an alcoholic and excessive drinking can have unwelcome consequences.

Says she who love a glass or three of wine 🙂

nrhatch - November 4, 2011

Yup, some people make choices that don’t benefit them in the long run, but it’s not up to us to oversee and control choices made by others . . . we must “mind our own business.”

7. Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide - November 4, 2011

Maine is so cold, Katherine would never go for it. I don’t know though syrup and blueberries!

nrhatch - November 4, 2011

Maine and Vermont are two of my favorite states . . . but only in the summer and EARLY fall before the snow starts falling.

8. LittleMissVix - November 4, 2011

I think to an extent we do look at other lifestyles and wish we had that, I think we’ll always have that envy but we need to learn to be as happy and content as we can with what we have and get the most out of it that we can.

nrhatch - November 4, 2011

Do what you can with what you have where you are . . . but keep one eye focused on where you want to be.

9. Carl D'Agostino - November 4, 2011

Miami is so oppressively hot – think I’d love it up there VT or ME blizzards be darned.

Judson - November 4, 2011

My sister and her husband live in Naples, FL in winter and Cashiers, NC in summer. Talk about best of both worlds!

nrhatch - November 4, 2011

Gof for it, Carl. 😎

Sounds like a perfect balance for your sister and her husband, Judson.

BFF would enjoy living in the mountains during the summer months . . . maybe we can get a small log cabin in the NC mountains someday.

For now, I’m happy where I am. 😀

10. SidevieW - November 4, 2011

happiness comes from your own balance

nrhatch - November 4, 2011

I agree. I wrote a song once with the following premise:

What we need to be happy is for us alone to decide.
No one else has sufficient perspective on how we feel inside.

SidevieW - November 5, 2011

exactly, it is so personal

11. cuhome - November 4, 2011

I think maybe a bit of that and mostly my life, as I live it now. I love my home, family and way of life now. But being in a natural setting once in a while, for a time, has it’s short-term appeals, too.
Nice post!

nrhatch - November 4, 2011

Nature nurtures.

No matter where we live, getting outside in fresh air and sunshine does wonders. It’s a great way to replenish our Happiness Reserves. 😀

12. To do something we might be meant to do… | Pocket Perspectives - November 4, 2011

[…] a few days later: Here are some very special and relevant ideas from a post, Living the Good Life, by Nancy Hatch at Spirit Lights the […]

13. Pocket Perspectives - November 4, 2011

Nancy….this is a really helpful post. I did a screen capture and added it, and a link, to the bottom of that post I did about doing something we might be “meant to do”…I think it adds helpful ideas to it. thank you…
And my grandparents did choose that extremely simple, subsistence level, intellectual life on a somewhat isolated farm in New Hampshire. My grandfather chose tremendous simplicity,actually poverty, and integrity. My grandmother went along with it. I’ve chosen a very different location, but appreciate the choices they made.

nrhatch - November 4, 2011

Thanks, Kathy. We each should be guided by our own inner compass in seeking balance in our lives.

14. sufilight - November 4, 2011

Nancy, The couple were ahead of most – had an awareness of the need of balance and lived it.

nrhatch - November 4, 2011

We have gotten “out of balance” . . . and society is becoming increasingly “off kilter” as a result.

One need only look at the short sighted policies of Washington (and other countries) to see that we are no longer in an upward spiral of progress.

cuhome - November 8, 2011

I agree. Pace is too fast, we have no time for stillness and reflection, anymore.

nrhatch - November 8, 2011

When we make time for stillness and reflection, we find more time for our priorities. 😎

15. Maggie - November 4, 2011

That’s why I admire the Amish. They know how to get along with hard work and little technology.

nrhatch - November 4, 2011

Maybe we need to return to the days of the Butcher, the Baker, and the Candlestick Maker. 😉

16. kateshrewsday - November 4, 2011

We have a UK sitcom called The Good Life where the heroes, Tom and Barbara, did just that. They got out of the rat race and lived off the land in Surbiton 😀 Lovely series. Lovely concept, which must make one happy, mustn’t it?

nrhatch - November 4, 2011

We had a show on PBS of the same name, The Good Life. It featured different folks each week who had made radical changes in their life in order to access their authenticity.

We loved it!

17. kateshrewsday - November 4, 2011

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1PB-wu9m1g&feature=related These are ALL a treat if you’ve never seen them before….just hope you can access them in the US…

nrhatch - November 4, 2011

Thanks, I’ll check it out, Kate. I love it when people realize that their life is their own and that they do NOT need a permission slip to live it on their own terms.

18. Paula Tohline Calhoun - November 4, 2011

I can’t imagine myself living as the Dearings did, but I can imagine them doing it! I know myself well enough now to know that their way is unrealistic for me at this point in my life, even though it has its vicarious appeal for me!

I can say with confidence that the life I am living now, while not perfect, is nevertheless enormously rewarding and it suits me at this stage. Part of the life I lead is spent examinging alternatives, however. I always like to keep spare irons in the fire – not because I am dissatisfied, but in order to keep myself looking up and out, and recognizing that where I am is not the only place I can be.

Now. . .doesn’t your comment box feel full now that I have at last weighed in? 😉

nrhatch - November 4, 2011

Yes, indeed, it does!

And I think that’s wise . . . to realize that no matter what we choose, there are other avenues available.

19. souldipper - November 4, 2011

Nothing like a few modern conveniences…as long as they don’t lead to sloth and lack of fitness. 😀

I once asked a 95 year Public Health Nurse retired on a First Nations settlement – way up North – what kept her so healthy. She still hauled her water from a stream under her house, gathered kindling, etc.! She told me: “A tablespoon of malt vinegar daily!”


nrhatch - November 5, 2011

Your anecdote made me smile, Amy. The secret to good health: Chop Wood . . . Carry Water . . . Eat Hearty! 😀

20. Booksphotographsandartwork - November 5, 2011

The beach would do it for me. If I could hear that sound, smell that smell, oh that would be nice. My husband wants to go to Utah. Gee thats nothing like the beach is it. Hope he wins the lottery soon.

nrhatch - November 5, 2011

Getting where we want in life is easier when (1) we travel light and (2) our traveling companions want to head in the same general direction. 😉

Good luck reaching resolution.

21. bluebee - November 5, 2011

Life’s good, Nancy – different things satisfy at different stages of life, but we don’t always have the means to up and off if we want to make a sea change

nrhatch - November 5, 2011

Some choices preclude other choices . . . or at least occlude them. If we want something bad enough, and are willing to “go for it,” we often succeed.

22. adeeyoyo - November 5, 2011

What an error it is to think we have ‘all the time in the world’… Love the quote:

Quote: Why do we put off living the way we want to live, as if we have all the time in the world? ~ Barbara de Angelis

nrhatch - November 5, 2011

Life is in the Here and Now . . . with no guarantee that we’ll be around next week, month, or year. Pays to make the most of it.

23. Tilly Bud - November 5, 2011

It sounds idyllic.

nrhatch - November 5, 2011

The way they balanced their days appeals to me . . . farming in New England does not.

Too bloody C~O~L~D in the winter. Brrr . . .

24. creatingreciprocity - November 5, 2011

Thanks Nancy – very interesting post – very interesting points. Maybe we can follow the Nearing’s lead by choosing our lives for ourselves instead of living the lives others think we should lead?

nrhatch - November 5, 2011

That’s the idea! To realize that we don’t need a permission slip to live OUR life. 😎

25. Team Oyeniyi - November 5, 2011

I really like Barbara’s question at the end of the article. So very, very true!

nrhatch - November 5, 2011

I agree! If we are content, we are content and shouldn’t force change just for the sake of change.

But, if we have the sense that something more needs to be added to our lives to bring them into balance, we should do what we can to manifest that change.

26. jannatwrites - November 5, 2011

I don’t think I could live the life they did, but I’m glad it worked for them.

My life is good, but I would like a little less city (thousands of people instead of millions.)

I agree with your opening that it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach but should be balanced.

nrhatch - November 5, 2011

I know that their life (as a whole) doesn’t appeal to me ~ but I do strive for a balance of mental, spiritual, physical and emotional in my daily routine.

Look deep, the answers lie within.

27. Julie - November 5, 2011

For the moment, my life suits me quite well. I’m too social to go homesteading, but I admire any people who decide to live the life they know they can love.

I also know that we can change our lives as our definition of a meaningful life changes. I know because I’ve done that, and maybe I’ll do it again one day.

nrhatch - November 5, 2011

I feel exactly the same. What I did in my 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s is NOT what I want to be doing NOW. And what I’m doing NOW may no longer appeal to me tomorrow.

Just as our wardrobe changes over time . . . our priorities ebb and flow. If we listen to our heart, we’re able to make course corrections, as necessary, while continuing to allow the path to unfold before us.

Here’s to Smooth Sailing!

28. ElizOF - November 6, 2011

The Ashram and life as it as would suit me fine… After reading Hannah Hauxwell’s story, I am reminded of the harshness that can come from farming… thanks but, no thanks. 🙂

nrhatch - November 6, 2011

Yes, gardening is wonderful and relaxing . . . farming is backbreaking labor.

I like the idea of intentional communities or extended families living together ~ with a division of labor to grow the food, cook meal, manage the household, care for children, etc.

Our splintered nuclear families give us privacy but no “economies of scale.” As a result, parents with young children are stretched thin and tend to be time poor. While older generations are under-utilized and isolated.

29. l0ve0utl0ud - November 6, 2011

I recently moved from a world capital with 8 million inhabitants to a small southern city iwth 200,000 inhabitants. I used to live in the city centre, with cars waking me up at dawn, and now I live in the suburbs, where there is little noise or movement. I don’t think I’ve found the right balanced lifestyle yet, because neither the huge capital nor the slow suburban rhythm fit me well. Who knows what I will discover and how I will feel in the near future?

nrhatch - November 6, 2011

As we explore, dream, discover, and journey through life, we sometimes hit on the nail on the head . . . other times, finding balance is a process of trial and error.

Enjoy your adventures . . . as the path unfolds before you.

30. Perfecting Motherhood - November 8, 2011

I would LOVE to live in Maine or Vermont, except that it’s way too cold for me there. But managing to live a simple life, enjoy nature and grow your own food, I’m all for it!

nrhatch - November 8, 2011

Maine or Vermont would be PERFECT . . . for about 3 months of the year (July, August, and September).

The rest of the time, I’d want to be inside in front of the fire. 😎

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