The Walden of suburbia


To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.’ So said the great Henry David Thoreau in Walden. Each day, during his two-year sojourn in a long cabin in the woods near Walden Pond, he would get up to bathe in the pond at dawn, calling it his ‘spiritual discipline… a religious exercise and one of the best things I did.’

Now, I’m sure he didn’t necessarily want to do it every morning. I’m quite certain some early, pitch-black deep cold mornings he woke up and thought: There is just no effing way I’m getting into that pond. I’ll do it tomorrow, I’ve got, like, forever to do this.

But he did it. Every morning.

I like to read about other peoples’ daily routines. I’m an absolute sucker for those ‘I’m winning at life’ spiels you read about, you know, I go to the gym, run, drink a turmeric shot, smear chia seed jam over my face, deal with all my emails, all before 4am. I’ve been reading them for years, but the most fundamental habit I wished I could adopt was simply ‘I get up early.’ I love the idea of those pencil-quiet morning hours, profoundly peaceful moments in which you can create your hopes for the day ahead, and by default for your life. But I’ve never been able to get up early. In my 20s and 30s, I took lie-ins to the max; there were lie-ins so epic that the promising pink of the day would regularly fade into the stifling dark of the night (this is depression).

Now, I have no choice about getting up at Silly o’clock because of my three babies. I’m awake by around 6am, so getting up ‘earlier’ would mean 4am and not much sleep. That will change. Until then, I affect the quality of the day by meditating each day, without fail. It is my spiritual discipline and the rock that I sit on daily – staring into my own version of Walden Pond, a refreshing dip into the reliable immensity of the universe.

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