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Arbreux, January 26, 2000. A page from my journal . . . acg


I have learned two or three deep and simple things about life: I have learned that happiness is not to be had for the seeking, but comes quietly to him who pauses at his difficult task and looks upward.

I have learned that friendship is very simple, and, more than all else, I have learned the lesson of being quiet, of looking out across the meadows and hills, and of trusting a little in God.

-- David Grayson, The Friendly Road

 

It was Josephine Gault who first introduced me to the writings of David Grayson, the pen name Roy Stannard Baker chose in his later years when he moved to a farm near Amherst, Massachusetts. Baker was an international journalist who wrote for McClure magazine in New York City and who later won the Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Woodrow Wilson. He organized the press office for the Paris Peace Conference, from whence he reported the bitter controversies over the League of Nations.

But Ray Stannard Baker was a lover of quiet ways and simple pleasures in his later years, a lifestyle not easily found in the hectic world of journalism. Thus emerged David Grayson, recording his daily thoughts and observations on the state of his farm, his neighbors, his bees, and mankind.

I have been reading his works again on these sub-freezing shut-in days when cold winds blow at Arbreux, and savoring his wisdom. Oh, I identify with him:

"The sense of wishing to be known only for what one really is is like putting on an old, easy, comfortable garment," he wrote. "You are no longer afraid of anybody or anything. You say to yourself, ‘Here I am—just so ugly, dull, poor, beautiful, rich, interesting, amusing, ridiculous – take me or leave me!" (Adventures in Understanding)

I have decided this year to stay home as much as possible and find contentment in these woods. Just yesterday, two of Samantha’s kids born in the squirrel house immediately in front of the chalet, were at my doorstep for breakfast. Such simple events bring me joy.

"Joy of life seems to me to arise from a sense of being where one belongs" wrote Grayson…"All the discontented people I know are trying sedulously to be something they are not, to do something they cannot do…

I understand it perfectly; I too, followed long after false gods. I thought I must rush forth to see the world, I must forthwith become great, rich, famous; and I hurried hither and thither, seeking I knew not what.

But as I grow older I remain here on my farm, and wait quietly for the world to pass this way. My oak and I, we wait, and we are satisfied. (Adventures in Understanding)

Grayson had an intense love for all the seasons and even the most bleak, gray days of winter, such as mine today, succumb to the spell of his words:

"The best of these fine winter days, when the garden is full of snow, is my morning tramp in my old warm coat, my stick in my hand. The inner glow, the life of the mind, as I tread the new…Life is good. I ask, indeed, why I am here, what is it all about, and have no answer, and yet how beautiful the wintry trees, how heady the morning air!" (The Countryman’s Year)

And how often have I quoted this:

"Looking back, I have this to regret, that too often when I loved, I did not say so." (Under My Elm)

 


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