the world is too much with us

Sunrise in the Sierra Nevadas

Sunrise in the Sierra Nevadas

Forgive me. I was an English major. My last post reminded me of this poem by William Wordsworth.

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

William Wordsworth lived from 1770 to 1850—long before the age of the Internet and the iPhone and GPS. And already he was worried that, with nature, we were out of tune . . .

A common sight at home.

A common sight.

I grew up in a small country town. I didn’t realize it at the time. To me, fields filled with goats or sheep or llamas or horses or cows simply meant “home.” No, no. I didn’t grow up on a farm. I haven’t the slightest idea how to milk a cow. But I was never happier than when spending an afternoon traipsing around a lake or walking beneath the moon and stars. Deer and wild turkeys were a common site in my neighborhood. Bobcats and foxes and even mountain lions, too, if you awoke early enough.

As I’ve mentioned, I used to go on walks. As I got older, I started running, and, eventually, after my accident, I began riding my bike. Whether walking or running or riding, though, my favorite time to go was always the early morning.
. . . I stopped. My breath was coming in gasps, each breath pulling cool, crisp air into my lungs. I looked at the hill ahead. The tips of the trees at the top were now glistening, evidence that the sun would, indeed, rise another day. From my spot in the shadows, I could see steam rising from a small pond. Birds were beginning to stir; they twittered. A cool breeze rustled nearby grasses.
And I thought, I couldn’t help but think, as I contemplated the busyness of the coming day, “Life isn’t supposed to be like this . . .”
Who decided we need to work five days a week, anyway?

Sunrise and Commons Beach Tahoe City, CA

Sunrise at Lake Tahoe

53 thoughts

  1. we don’t need a five day work week! we just need to breathe deep – and not embrace the material but immaterial which is our mind
    Lve the writing and reflection – living on a 19 square mile ranch in the middle of nowhere – I understand your youth – I still walk.

    • I know, right? I mean, really. Everyone loves the weekends and dreads Mondays. And we’re in control of our destiny, right? So, really. Who’s idea was this?! Thanks for reading and commenting. :)

  2. Isn’t it interesting that thousands years ago our ancestors used to sit under the starry sky before the fire and tell each other stories? They sure did not have gadgets to connect their minds, but they knew how to connect their souls.

    Thank you for this post, Jess. Another mind-stimulating one from you. Have a wonderful weekend! Many blessings and much love to you ♥

    • I often feel “gadgets” are overrated. I still don’t have an iPhone or smartphone. It *is* amazing that our ancestors sat under the same stars… Actually, I felt that way in Taiwan—amazed that in a world so different from the only one I’d ever known the stars would be the same…

      Thanks for your kind comments and twitter shares! I’m going to go look at that Paulo Coelho blog right now. ;)

      • Glad to hear it! Busy with a lot of things—many of them having to do with writing and applying for graduate schools. Are you a student?

      • Yes, I’m a student, hehe, because I haven’t graduated yet. Hopefully mid this year. Fingers crossed and wish me luck, yah! :-) Which schools are you planning to study at? And what major? Creative writing?

      • Good for you. I’ll cross my fingers for you. I have an English degree and want to get my masters in creative nonfiction with an emphasis in international and intercultural studies. But I’m not sure there really is such a thing. We’ll see.

      • Thanks, Jess. That’s an interesting subject to work on, you may excel on that, given the fact that you have an EFL experience already. And in my view, actually we need more stuff on intercultural studies entering the literary fiction market, so I encourage you pursue that. That’s an area which is rarely touched, so that’s a niche already. I attended a conference and heard that creative writing in Columbia University is one of the best in the USA, Jonathan Safran Foer teaches there. There’s a summer program opening:

        I have taught both EFL and ESL myself and such wonderful opportunity has shaped my worldview to a large extent the way it is now. I am sure you feel the same. I feel so blessed with this and I want to cultivate this for my future writing project.

        Take care, Jess. Have a pleasant evening! ♥

    • Sorry, I meant Jonathan Safran Foer used to teach there. And that Summer program is not a graduate school, so it may only be useful if you want some preparatory course or something like that. But if you really want a master’s degree, it surely is not suitable. BTW, which program in which universities have you been looking at?

      • I’m a floundering soul, Subhan. Not sure where I’ll go … Perhaps if we want to continue this conversation, you should write me using my contact form?

    • You’re right. As I hit the “post comment” button yesterdat, I realized how many comments I’ve got here, haha. Your contact form looks like a viable option, but I prefer your personal email address. Would that be alright? Thanks. Mine is subhanzein at gmail dot com.

    • Hi, Jess, please don’t call yourself “a floundering soul:, because you are not. Perhaps you are now having a hard time, or not sure where you want to go, or having a disappointment, or having a moment of self-doubts, that’s normal, but that does not mean you’re “a floundering soul”. I do have such feelings sometime too, everyone does. But we must keep going. And for the reason that you survived the accident, “a floundering soul” is definitely not the right phrase for you. There is something big within you that you must tap for the greater good of you and others that you were given a great chance to live.

      And yes, I will write you in your contact form. Take care, Jessica, hope your weekend is wonderful, many blessings and much love to you ♥

  3. I get restless in the country and I usually want out of the city. Somewhere between is a good fit for me I think. I too was a Liberal Arts major. I actually somewhat regret it, although I did graduate. Now I’m going into the family business and I’m glad its there or else I’d probably remain in the poor house with my Degree.

    But that is a wild story about falling off while rock climbing.

    • Mmm. I can relate. The way things are now, I’ll probably be in the poor house all my life. But I don’t regret it. I would have been miserable in medicine, which is the career path my parents chose. I love the energy of the city and the repose of the country. I love visiting cities, though. Don’t think I’d ever want to live in one. I need to be able to get away…

      Yes, the rock-climbing story was pretty intense. I’m lucky to be alive. Thanks for reading. :)

  4. Forgive you? For what? That was just about perfect, and something I’ve thought upon and written about many a time.

    You’re in the zone, kiddo. Keep it up. :)

  5. Five day work week is a luxury afforded by the industrial revolution, right? (sarcasm)

    I think we lost a lot when we, meaning historically as a society, turned from working in the field and living by the law of the harvest to sit ourselves in $45 “manager” chairs all day to chase numbers around computer screens.

    So many of the new technologies that come out claim to solve a problem of life, but those “problems” were never viewed as problems until the “solution” was produced by Apple or Microsoft or Google.

    My goal is to one day get back to a simpler lifestyle, if I can only pay off my debt to society (in the form of student loans I took so I could become a better contributing member). The status quo is a misrepresentation.

    • I truly agree. We spend our lived chasing numbers of all different kinds, and none of them ever make much sense. It is a problem that we’ve gotten so far away from the land, that we live off of imports—and in other ways, too.

      Thanks for reading and for your thought-provoking comment.

  6. Nice nice nice. Wordsworth is my favourite English poet. Because of him, my wife and I visited the Lake District in 2008. We saw it all – Grasmere, Dove Cottage, Rydal Mount, Cockersmouth, Hawkshead and of course so much more of the Lake District. Needless to say, the visit spawned a book of poems which I’ve since published

    My favourite Wordsworth poems are Nutting and Michael. I particularly wanted to find the “tumultuous brook of Greenhead Ghyll”, but we ran out of time. But we’ll be there again.

    Beautiful, your love of nature.

  7. I know what you mean about living in the country. I try to appreciate the deer as they eat my flowers, the wild turkeys as the dig up my flowers, the moles, voles, and gophers as they suck my flowers back into the earth, the snails that eat my flowers leaves, and now the cute little finches seem to have joined in. As I read your article once again it “shifted” my perspective to how much I love this little space on earth even with all of the annoying little critters. Ah perspective.

    • Haha, Terri! Your comment made me laugh. I vividly remember running and yelling at the top of my lungs at deer who were ravaging our yard when we lived in Greenstone. Ahh, the good ol’ days. Yes, the critters can be annoying, but, can you imagine how boring this earth would be without them? There are people who live in cities filled with tall buildings who crave grass and space and trees. We are truly blessed.

  8. Glanced through the comments, but if I remember my Industrial Age history correctly, we (the “working class”) used to work 7 days a week, something like 12-14 hours a day, in “sweat shops,” so our work week has actually shrunk! :-]

    I grew up on a “pseudo-farm” (no cow milking, but chickens, pigs, turkeys, and gardens…)…deep in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, and currently live in Colorado. I love the early mornings, and all the wildlife I see. As a kid, I was ALWAYS roaming the “back 40” of forest or down at the lake across our house, or riding my bike everywhere. But now…have to support myself, so those things are not as “close” as they once were. But I still take walk/hikes and drives in the mountains with my wife, so we enjoy the outdoors as much as we can! Great post, Jessica. :-]

    • Thank you. I know. Really, there is a lot to be grateful for when we consider the way some things used to be in the Industrial Age, etc. But I just find it funny that society as a whole, which is made up of individuals, has created for itself a system so rushed and demanding and exhausting to the individuals upon which it is built that many people can’t enjoy the beauty of each and every day. Instead, we are always longing for the “weekend,” which is too short to really fulfill our needs for REST. I suppose it’s unavoidable. But, to me, it’s just more evidence that, in this world, things are not as they were meant to be.

  9. I love that poem, and rereading it brought back memories of when I worked (many moons ago) for the Wordsworth Trust based at his former home, Dove Cottage. Even today it is a place to go to get away from it all – the surrounding hills don’t permit a mobile phone signal and a 20 minute walk away from the village will have you in splendid isolation. What could be better?

  10. A friend of mine said she’ll propose a “2-day work week” if she gets elected as Senator. :) Loved the idea. Haha. I enjoyed reading this. You are blessed to live so close to “nature.”

    • I *am* blessed! I didn’t even realize how blessed I was until I moved away and then moved back home.

      I really hope your friend gets elected Senator. ;)

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

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