By Kevin Carrel Footer

COBSCOOK BAY, MAINE – I have always been about exploring: the big house, my dad’s locked closet, a woman’s body, the backroads of this world, myself. The great explorers of the New World, of the Artics? They have nothing on me.

This morning I sit in a wooden shelter overlooking a bay on the downeast coast of Maine. In front of me juts a small penninsula with an outcropping of trees at its point. On the far shore, Fall-colored trees mix with evergreens. A flock of sea birds coasts low over the water, going somewhere.

I watch the yellow leaves of a birch shudder in the wind, hanging on for dear life against the inevitable. It seems a pity that my visual enjoyment should depend on their sacrifice. They make a beautiful dance of it till the end and even then they surrender with shimmering grace to the wind, then carpet the ground and edges of the bay with their shocking yellow gift.

The emptier and simpler my life, the easier it is for me to see these things and the richer I am. A notebook, a pen, a camera, a laptop, some harmonicas with which to make music, and a vehicle to call home and move around in. I surprise myself with how full I am right now.

The simpler life is not better on some moral or ecological grounds – though you could make a case for both. For purely practical reasons, it is easier for me to find my way and give things their true value when I have less: shelter from the rain, a fire on which to heat water, a bed in which to sleep warm beside another body and time to contemplate the beauty of it all.

Life comes and goes with such easy fluidity. One can never predict the extent of one’s days – only that other life will surge up to replace it.

I strive to start each day with the awareness that it could be my last. This helps me to value each small thing: the cold breeze that chills me, the spider working diligently to make its web between the slats of the picnic table on which I write, the people I love and who love me back, the gas station attendant who greets me with gusto.

If I can start my day with a proper awareness of the beauty and fragility of it all then I know that I will not squander the day ahead.

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