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Living Simply

Remarks at Gary and Ilana's Wedding

By Nathan Borson November 6, 1999, Port Townsend, WA

I'm Nate Borson. I've known Gary since I hired him to come to Alaska to guide sea kayaking trips over seven years ago. As many of you know, he's lived in Gustavus every summer since.

Most people who visit or hear about Gustavus immediately notice what's missing. We have no tall buildings, stop lights, bank or ATM machine, cell phones, or malls. Even though it's on the mainland, there are no roads to Gustavus. There are no bars, movie theaters, or bowling alleys. There's no town council or police. There are few permanent jobs and no real career opportunities.

So if you're like my family, many of you wonder why Gary and Ilana go there! Since I'm partly responsible for that happening, I'll try to explain the attraction.

Gustavus is a good place for those who like a simple lifestyle. Because there are no billboards and malls, there's less temptation to clutter our lives with stuff we really don't need. Because there aren't big companies with high-powered jobs, there's less chance of overworking. And I find that if I don't buy a lot of stuff, and I don't need a big fancy house to put the stuff in, then I don't need to work all the time. Living a simpler life gives me the time and the freedom to do what's really important -- for me, that includes exploring the wilderness with friends like Gary and Ilana, volunteering in my community, and just slowing down and enjoying the passage of time. Sometimes less is better.

100 years ago naturalist John Muir participated in a scientific expedition to Alaska sponsored by the wealthy industrialist John Harriman. One of the passengers on the cruise was telling Muir about all Harriman's railroads and great wealth when Muir said, "I'm wealthier than he is."

"But you're just a simple naturalist," the passenger objected.

"Yes, but I have everything I want and he doesn't," Muir answered.

This wedding is a good occasion to ponder what we all want. What's really important to us?

Two of my mentors are retired Portland high school teachers who once took a sabbatical and traveled around the world. When they were in India they sought and were granted an audience with the guru Binobi. They were ushered into his presence and allowed one question. "Do you have a message for us to take back to our students in America?" they asked. Binobi silently wrote his reply on a piece of paper. From it they read these three words: "Truth, Love, Compassion."

I wish Gary and Ilana a simple and meaningful life together full of the truth that exists apart from appearances and human invention, full of the love of family and friends, and full of compassion for all people and other creatures. I am grateful that they will continue to be my friends and neighbors and I look forward to many more years of exploring Alaska's wilderness with them.