Do you remember the tale “The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse?” Of course you do, it’s a classic Aesop’s fable (often called The City Mouse and the Country Mouse) that has been recounted in various reincarnations in a multitude of children’s books and stories over many centuries. As the story is told, the Town Mouse, after being disappointed with a meager meal of a few corn kernels and dried blueberries at the Country Mouse’s home invites his rural cousin to his home in the city to show him “the rich feasts of city life.” The Country Mouse agrees to visit his urban cousin but promptly leaves after their exquisite meal of bread and cheese and fruit and grains is repeatedly interrupted by prowling dogs (or cats).
The motto? A modest life of peace and quiet is better than a richly one with danger and strife.
I have thought about this story often recently. I wonder if I am a Town Mouse or a Country Mouse. On one hand, sure, I have chosen to live in the country with all the benefits of peace and solitude that it provides. On the other hand, although we as a family try to be responsible with our income, I by no means can claim to have subscribed to a complete life of modesty. On one hand I feel right at home, ecstatic even as if it is my proper place, working around my property dressed in a barn jacket and a pair of mud boots. On the other hand, I feel equally at home, dressed to a tee and sitting in a wine bar, consuming $10.00 glasses of wine and enjoying the company of friends. On one hand, I enjoy having adequate time to myself, peace and solitude and time to think and ponder and write and play my guitar. It would be fair to say I crave it even, thrive on it. Likewise, on the other hand I understand that I need, for sanity’s sake, interactions with friends and family and community. I guess it’s like a scale that I must continually add and remove weights to and from each weighing pan, to be sure that my life stays in the appropriate balance, a balance that varies from time to time, but which must stay relatively stable.
Where I find myself leaning towards the life of the Country Mouse, however, is in preferring an existence of solitude. I’ll be honest in saying that, if the choice were offered to me, most of the time I’d choose the loner life as opposed to constantly being in the presence of other people. It’s a strange dynamic because I have the unique ability to portray myself as someone who is somewhat sociable and confident and successful and in many ways I crave that stature as well. It’s not a complete ruse, I am all those things at some level, but some days, if I could just crawl into a hole and do my own thing, hand over all the responsibilities to someone else and live a “modest life of peace and quiet” I’d take that option in a heartbeat. I suspect that personality trait is what drives me to write, to be able to sit at a computer, with my thoughts and words, without the distractions of other people’s opinions, without the stresses from the problems that our business is facing, without the worries about bills and mortgages and needing a new car and the multitude of other issues we all face daily.
I am home today writing because my kids are on Spring Break and I chose to take some time off this week to be home with them. As they no longer require my constant attention, I sit here and compose this post, and it makes me crave even more the lifestyle of the Country Mouse. It makes me understand how much I prefer to be working at home, tapping on my keyboard, with a cup of hot coffee by my side and a classical music radio station playing faintly in the background, rather than toiling away in a business with phones ringing and e-mails beeping. It makes realize how much I prefer working by myself, passionately creating something that I find meaningful, rather than managing and supervising and delegating to others for the sole purpose of bringing in a paycheck. Like many of my readers, I would desperately like to find a way to nurture this lifestyle, to make a living writing and working from home. I don’t think this is in the cards for me at this point in my life but I do hope I am slowly planting the seeds that will grow my writing skills to a level, which down the road at some point, is more than just a hobby, more than just a blog, more than just a silly dream.
The Aesop Brothers never discussed the careers of the Town Mouse and the Country Mouse in their classic fable about living a meager yet meaningful life versus living a life of luxury and indulgence. Their stories had a way of teaching simple yet profound life lessons, in brief and not overly analytical compositions. If I were to venture a guess though, I suspect the Town Mouse was an investment banker or a real estate mogul or some other such business person, sitting in a corner office twelve hours a day, making a six figure salary that he could blow on cheese and bread and fruit and grains, but who never really found happiness and satisfaction in his career and his lifestyle.
The Country Mouse, on the other hand… most likely a starving author.