The Art of Love: How I Came to An Innermost Life
Not for the proud man apart
From the raging moon I write
On these spindrift pages…
But for the lovers, their arms
Round the griefs of the ages,
Who pay no praise or wages
Nor heed my craft or art.
Here in the woods it is spring again, the season of love and new beginnings. The trees are in leaf, the wild lilac is in bloom, the birds are in song. All day and all night the woods are awake with a longing to begin anew.
Innermost House is my home in the woods, where my husband and I have lived for many years. The house is about twelve feet square, and there is no electricity or hot water. Yet we live a life of luxury here. The greatest luxury in life is to live with what you truly love.
So many people wish to simplify their lives today. People I meet want to know how I made my way to what I call an Innermost Life. The great question is how—how to make a new beginning at a truly simple life.
There Are Two Ways to Simplify Your Life
One way is eliminating the things from your life that don't really matter, until you are left with what you need.
This is the rational way to proceed, and it works. Experts and practitioners speak of it with authority. There are steps to take and things to accomplish and ideas to exchange. You can really get somewhere this way.
The other way is the art of filling your life with what you love most in the world. Love has a strange emancipating power that lets everything else fall away.
Your heart is able to sense this mysterious force. In some way, your one love has the power to displace the many things.
The Art of Love
The way I took was the art of living only for the one thing I love most of all. My passion is for contemplative conversation. I formed my home and my life around this one consuming love. It patiently taught me how I need to live and what I need to own and whom I need to know. It gave direction to my days. It brought me my husband, Michael Lorence, whose whole work in life is high conversation.
My husband and I speak of everything together. We eat and breathe each other’s words. For many years, while we made our way to this place, it was “he alone with I alone.” Now people come from all over the world to sit here and talk of the things in their heart and soul.
The art of love is the art of letting one truth answer a world of questions. Loving one thing taught me to light my home with candles and to cook over the fire. It taught me what books to read and what pictures to see and what silence to keep. It taught me to sit low and to sleep on the floor. It taught me to understand high things. It taught me to listen to my feelings.
The currents of the world flow against those who love and long for a truly simple life. Before we came to the woods we moved more than twenty times. After what seemed a failed search of the Innermost Life, it finally grew out of our need. Embracing grief, we loved and lost and found our way to this simple life.
There Are Many Ways to Love
Love has many worthy objects. By what craft can anyone prescribe to another the nature of their love? You may love your work or your studies or a place or a book. Love is the heart's way to simplify your life.
I know a man who greatly admires Thomas Jefferson. He has shaped his whole world around that love. His work and life at home are among the simplest, happiest, and most inspiring I know. I know another man who loves nothing better than fly fishing from his finely crafted wooden boat. He expresses his love through written stories of his adventures outdoors, and lives a very simple life.
I know a woman who lives for her handicapped child. Despite all the complications that has involved—or maybe because of them—her love has greatly simplified her life, and allowed her to let go of everything else without reservation. Her life has a heartbreaking beauty now.
Whatever it is that you love, the wayless way to simplify your life is to live only for that love. It is by love alone that you truly see, and see what truly matters. And when you see how much it matters, your confusions and griefs give way to purpose and freedom. If you make a way to live with what you truly love—not just with what you happen to have or want—then you may find yourself simply leaving everything else behind.
What I Have Learned
The simple life is a luxury few feel they can afford today. Yet its only price is to surrender what you do not love and do not need, whether by means of art or science. I have lived a lover’s life, suffering for and rejoicing in the things I truly love. It has not been a prudent life, or a secure one.
I have learned that simplicity for me lies in loving with all my heart and all my soul and all my mind. I have made my way to a simple life by loving the one thing that matters most to me as if nothing else mattered at all.
It is spring again in the woods, and I have learned that only the simple things return our love. Together with my husband, I begin anew each spring to learn what only love can teach me.