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.
8 responses to “The Town Mouse and The Country Mouse”
Interesting that you observe the country life is a good life for a loner. I feel the same way, which is why we live in the country. As for occupations that allow this lifestyle, I’ve found marrying someone with a good paying career worked well for me… Good thing opposites attract!
I think the majority of writers are introverts and we crave a big chunk of solitude, whether it’s in the country or elsewhere. I love to listen to nothing but quiet (a rare treat).
In one year and three months, my husband will retire, and I am becoming quite frantic about it. He’s quite the motor-mouth, and I have no idea how the story will end.
He’s been on vacation this week, and I haven’t written a thing since Friday. The tension is building, I’m wringing my hands and its only been 4 days…. Whatever will I do when he’s here 24/7.
There’s no use talking to him about it; it’s like asking the wind not to blow.
lol… too funny! My wife and I both have lots of time until retirement so we don’t have to worry about that just yet.
I loved that! Never heard the story growing up, but it is one that I will now tell.
At so many points reading your post, I felt like it was me that you were talking about. Every night I go home to that country, and every morning I drive 25 minutes to get to an insane city….that actually keeps me sane. Best of both worlds. But if I could choose…..
I am also a Country Mouse, Steve, although I enjoy going into the city to work…
When we moved to our country home 2 1/2 years ago, I dreamed of having time to do a lot of things…it hasn’t happened! We spend a lot of time doing what we have to do, instead of what we want to do…
Maybe when all the kids are gone…sigh…
Yean, I know the feeling!
Like mynakedbokkie earlier, I too felt as if you were describing me in parts of it. I’ve experiencd both: born and raised on a farm in the backblocks of New Zealand, so isolated we initially had no electricity and I was home schooled. Now of course I live in a city of nearly 4 million people.
Like you I like mucking around in gumboots, but equally I like a nice dinner in a nice restaurant and a nice glass of wine.
I understand exactly where you are coming from. Where any of us are going to – well, that is an entirely different question!