“Helen and Scott Nearing were well-known American back-to-the-landers who wrote extensively about their experience living what they termed “the good life”. The Nearings began their simple life on an old farm on the foot of Stratton Mountain near Jamaica, Vermont in 1932, in the pit of the Great Depression. In 1952 they moved to Maine, ultimately settling on their “Forest Farm” at Cape Rosier (in the village of Harborside, within the town of Brooksville), where they lived until their deaths. Scott remained a thinker, writer, and lecturer on economics and social issues for many years. Their best known books (those they wrote together) are Living the Good Life (published 1954) and Continuing the Good Life (1979). The first of these is often credited with being a major spur to the U.S. back-to-the-land movement that began in the late 1960s.
Helen and Scott were devoted to a lifestyle giving importance to work, on the one hand, and contemplation or play, on the other. Ideally, they aimed at a norm that divided most of a day’s waking hours into three blocks of four hours: “bread labor” (work directed toward meeting requirements of food, shelter, clothing, needed tools, and such); civic work (doing something of value for their community); and professional pursuits or recreation (for Scott this was frequently economics research, for Helen it was often music – but they both liked to ski, also). They clearly honored manual work, and viewed it as one aspect of the self-development process that they felt life should be.
The Nearings were experimenters and were also very widely read. They frequently quoted authors of centuries past in their own books. They found wisdom in some of the attitudes of the past, but did not feel tied to the life patterns or technologies of the past. In no way did they reject civilization, or sacrifice what they accepted as the enriching aspects of modernity. Apart from the necessity that drove them to the land, when they sought a good life during the Depression, keys to their success in the lifestyle included intelligence, commitment, self-discipline, and enjoyment. Due to the publication of their books, and to their open-house practices regarding guests, the Nearings’ approach was emulated by thousands of people who wanted a life that afforded play and contemplation in addition to work.”
Image source: Vermont Public Radio