April 14, 2011

A simple man

I grew up in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. When I got married I began a step-by-step journey further and further away from the city. In the past 25 years of marriage we have moved from about 25 miles out of central D.C. to our current home, which is 75 miles from D.C.

Because I work in D.C., many people wonder why we would chose to live so far away from everything. I find it hard to answer those questions. Perhaps I could tell them that they live far away from everything—not me. After all, we live on the banks of the Shenandoah River with beautiful mountains on all sides. We live within a couple of miles of everything our town has, so we could actually walk anywhere in town without problem. And we live only a couple miles from the most highly regarded recreational drive in the nation—Skyline Drive through the Shenandoah National Park.

Of course, those are not the things people mean when they say, “you live so far away from everything.” They, of course, are referring to things like traffic, crime, and pollution. Or, maybe they see something else in the city worth living near.

I recently read a wonderful passage from someone who gets it—Jack George Edmunson. From his newest book, The Sun Sharer, here is the foreward:


here’s a beautiful place in Catalonia called Yapanc. It has beautiful people bathed in a beautiful light reflected from the beautiful sea and is tranquilo—quiet, fresh and alive.

The local Health Service actually works, the good schools are free to all and there’s very little traffic so it is easy to park in the centre of the sleepy neighbouring town called Palafrio. When you shop, you go to Palafrio’s markets for your locally caught fresh fish and other produce. Simple, loose and unpackaged food that you carry around in your hand-woven basket feeling relaxed, having spent time talking to your friends and eating breakfast together sitting outside one of the little cafes in the pretty square.

Then you go home refreshed and happy, feeling at one with a simple life built around real genuine people who share that simplicity.

When the sun goes down you can stand on the hill above Yapanc by El Far—The Lighthouse and watch the sun set behind the hills to the west of Palafrio that is spread far below you, feeling at one with the real world.

In my ‘home’ of Yapanc I have ‘Real Life’ where less is truly more.

There’s a place I originally thought was beautiful in Cheshire called Tettenhill.

My friends were the beautiful people but are now forgotten acquaintances, which in fact they always were.

It constantly seemed to be grey and rainy but as I was always working away from ‘home,’ I can’t be totally sure, so maybe it was just dismal in my heart and mind.

You would wait days for a doctor’s appointment and then see a locum; pay twelve thousand pounds a year for your child to be in the right school for the right ‘friends’ and always queue in traffic on the A51 at any time of the day. These queues stretched right into the Sainsbury’s car park, even when we went in early or late to miss the stampede for processed and over-packaged food, taken away in a host of plastic bags.

It was a frustrating place. Overheating with people who were preoccupied with possessions like cars and TVs. There were always things to do and so it developed into a meaningless drive to nothingness for many individuals and not just me.

So this was not ‘Real Life’ and therefore many people were not truly happy.

There is also a hill above Tettenhill as in Yapanc. This is reached via a stunningly beautiful footpath through a valley called Dingle Dell where the trees form a natural tunnel as they lean into the sun. If you walked up this trail you reached a window on the west where you could turn and contemplate the same sunset as in Catalonia but behind the distant Welsh Hills. You could feel at one with the world and be a Sun sharer with a loved one in Yapanc—but of course it’s England and there’s no time to take spiritually uplifting strolls like that.

The places in this story don’t matter but the people do.

Because people make life, not places, not possessions, not things.

There is no way you can avoid the highs and lows of life but you will see that ‘Real Life’ needs those lows to make the highs that much higher.

It’s all about what you say and do and not what you think or propose to do.

Doing changes mundane and meaningless to a reality that is exciting and important.

You have to remember that it is down to you only and therefore you cannot blame anyone else for the life that you lead.

Someone said to me at work.

“Jack, why are you going to live in Yapanc?”

This was a question said with an incredulous voice and reinforced by a quizzical look, as if Yapanc was at the end of the world.

“Because, I can,” and I left it at that.


  1. Larry Cathcart4/14/2011 12:29 PM

    I agree with your blog post but I think it takes some a while to come to the realization of what you said. A lot of people like the crazy lifestyle but eventually grow out of it and/or become a little wiser

  2. Great perspective - I like it!


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