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Thursday, June 14, 2007


I recently finished reading 'Ten Acres Enough', by Edmund Morris. Written around 1864 it is a fascinating account of the authors family moving from Philadelphia to South Jersey and establishing a small farm on 10 acres. When I first received the book, I didn't realize the close proximity of the author's homestead to my suburban apartment. It is sickening to me to read the prices he quotes for acreage and the descriptions of rural solitude, yet close proximity to urban entertainment. He lived in Jersey when it truly was "The Garden State." Yes, prices go up everywhere over the course of 150 years, however, the New Jersey of today would seem alien to Morris. Reasonably priced, affordable homes are nonexistent and the closet *farmers* market to my home sells mostly cheap imported plastic doo-dads and fast food. There is one butcher and in the summer I think maybe two tables of produce. The way the locomotive opened up Jersey for farmers supplying Philly and NYC, the automobile opened up Jersey for suburban sprawl extending from those same locations. Reading Morris's book allowed me to escape back to a simpler era in Jersey's past. It's funny how even in the early 1860's Morris was itching to escape to the country, and today many suburbanites and city dwellers aspire to the same goal. How do so many country folk find themselves in the city or the vast suburban wasteland? What lies have we been telling ourselves and false goals have we slaving towards before realizing that true happiness lies in self sufficiency, not consumerism.
"I knew that I was not rich, but it was certain that I was not poor. [snip] The millionaire could not have more than his share of the pure atmosphere that I was breathing, while the poorest of all men could have as much. God only can give all these, and to many of the poor he has thus given. All that is most valuable can be had for nothing. The come as presents from the hand of an indulgent Father, and neither air nor sky, no beauty, genius, health, or strength, can be bought or sold. Whatever may be one's condition in life, the great art is to learn to be content and happy, indulging in no feverish longings for what we have not, but satisfied and thankful for what we have."
Ten Acres Enough, E. Morris pg, 22

If Jersey is where I am to be, than I will find happiness in Jersey. Despite many things, I am happy here, and I will make a 10th of an acre enough, if that is what we acquire.
"It takes mankind a great while to learn the ways of Providence, and to understand that things are better contrived for him than he can contrive them for himself."
T.A.E., E. Morris pg, 89