Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 2, No. 15. July 26, 1939
Perhaps you know what Thoreau said. He was being frightfully economic about everything while living by that pond of his, and he said that a man might even have as his abode one of those long boxes that are left by the roadside to hold the tools of workmen at night. (I believe they make them just long enough for a man to lie down in.) He must have meant—yes, I fancy he said—"sleep there at night" only. I forgot whether he mentioned boring holes . . . As if for a moth in a cardboard box.
My family is not such that likes to sleep in the Public Works Depart ment's tool-boxes beside the road. (Of course Thoreau would have carted it away to somewhere picturesque.) They would say "Carrying things too far." or "A bit over the edge," and regard as being a little different from everyone else, even slightly mad, anyone who did.
It is unfortunate for the one who seems by some perversity of nature to be different from the rest of the family . . . Now I am not going to disappoint you by telling you I am one of the mad sort who believes in living in P.W.D. tool-boxes. Those sort of things are always full of spiders. . . . But I make no bones about telling you I believe in what Thoreau meant—and that is some thing quite obscure: simplicity.
For a long time past I have been thinking of—no, not a house, because that means four solid walls, and doors and windows and most probably a fence six-feet-four high, just to frustrate the tallest men, who are six-feet-two—but of an "abode". Ah, you guessed: Thoreau's influence. For an abode can be anything from an upturned boat—think how happy they were in Dickens—to a platform in a tree—or yes, a tool-box. (That blessed tool-box!)
If I had a cave I should want to hang a lion-skin over the mouth of it, and as there are no lions, let alone their skins, in this country, the cave idea must be given up. I once saw a picture of a house in a tree builded like a big dovecote, only I can't remember where it was, and as it had the directions with it, that is no use either. I have explained about the tool-box before. Spiders, wasn't it?
Now, something like Yeats' cabin "of clay and wattles made," with its bean-rows and its bee-hives is very fascinating. This sort of thing you think of at night when you lie down on your bed to sleep, with a blister on either heel from tramping round town interviewing women to ask them how they make their pancakes, so that every other woman may make pancakes the way they do. Only the snag here is that beans won't grow in this country. They push up from the soil and then, bingo! the white butterflies have eaten them right away. And besides, if I actually lived in Yeats' poetic house, what should I have to think of when I got into bed?
No, I have not disposed of everything yet. Then why am I not living in this one? Well, it's only a short story. . . .
Near my home is a beach—I mean a real one with yellow sand-dunes and grasses, and you just lie on it and look at the blue sea, and dream. Really dream. It is marvellous. My friend and I often go to this beach.
In the dunes and grasses is a boat-shed, quite, quite alone there, looking through a dip in the mounds of sand. And there is a pair of big wheels for pushing a boat down on, in front, and there's one window, and the doors—ah, those doors! Double doors like in a garage, and they just open wide back and the sea and sky and sand seem to flow right in and the shed seems to float away on them. . . .
There's where I would live. How I would live! Juliet and I lie out on the sand, and we peer at it through the shimmer as if it were a mirage. Ah, how solemn I am suddenly become!
"Let's, Let's live there. Why not? Aren't we free to live our own lives?"
No, we're not. We are not free.
Because—what ever would people say? Yes, we are that sort.