Recently I heard that one man owns five authentic copies of the Declaration of Independence. He’s a billionaire. Scholars have determined that there are fifty-one in existence. On either a trip to Washington D.C. when I was a teenager, or when I was in fourth grade and took a tour of New York City, I acquired a copy of the same document. Suffice it to say, it was not one of the original (facscimile) fifty-one but was a commercial copy acquired at a museum store or at Fraunces Tavern in New York where one could see George Washington’s wooden teeth. I held onto it for a long time. I liked opening it up and reading it and examining the signatures. The words were meaningful even when I was young and didn’t know much about the world. Independence only meant going places on my own, with no supervision, under my own power with little accountability. It meant making decisions that only I could make in the moment without relying on anyone else. Even then, I knew it gave me power. I think at one time, when I didn’t like the rules at home, I wrote my own declaration of independence. I drafted it with intent and put it with the “real” one but never declared it to anyone by myself.
Having had a short break from the routine weeks of working and working more, my FHB and I took off to head north into New Hampshire. Our destination was a place that was off the grid, not in terms of electricity or water, but more a place to recalculate and find our centers, both as individuals and as partners. It was, no joke intended, a place that even a GPS couldn’t find. We attempted to follow a route from the Google directions and ended up on a road surrounded by the contemporary way of siphoning maple syrup, which is through blue and green tubing attached to maple trees. Long gone was the way of tapping the tree and letting the syrup fill a galvanized bucket. The road was muddied dirt, and was somewhat reminscent of what I imagine a stagecoach ride might have felt like. We were off the beaten track for sure. We reached our destination and found ourselves in a place that time forgot by about two hundred and twenty five years. We were welcomed into a space, rustic and warm, with the view of a field and a mountain and a wall of windows to take it all in. We sat in time worn chairs in front of a large woodstove that was the source of heat to fill the room and bookshelves from ceiling to floor filled with knowledge and history on every shelf. There was no television or radio or sounds other than a few trucks or cars passing by. It was a little bit of paradise filled with large amounts of quiet.
We are a pair that don’t need ongoing conversation. We came equipped with books and the twenty first century tools to write or catch up on information. Our breathing was slower and our heart sounds healthy. Our vision was clearer and not mired by worries or thoughts of the past or the future. We found our way to places to eat and then back again to sit and write or sit and sit some more. My FHB has always had this ability to sit for long periods in silence and contemplation. I struggle to do that. It seems as though having to leave home, and the obligations of things undone that I believe, in the moment need doing, is the way for me to learn that skill.
We spent 44 hours in “our” respite and it felt like a very long and productive span of time. We sorted through our thoughts and let go of some, and recycled others. The concept of ” We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” resonated through my mind as I looked at the surroundings outside our window, as well as acknowledging the feeling inside. The billionaire, who has those copies , might be considered a lucky man. I understand the value of the words, but luck is subjective. Being okay with yourself, gives you your own sense of independence and can be as enduring.