My red-tinged maple Duke by my side The sharp line of shadow and sunlight on my garden
My own schedule Freedom of choice to do as I may Time to wonder while I wander The gentlest of breezes Perfect coolness Endless blue sky Learning to be in stillness as an end in itself Accepting the rush of others without judgment Trading later for now as well as I can I am We are This is – enough.
Simplicity is a word I have not been familiar with for most of my life. Simple does not exist in my vocabulary, well at least my pre Covid Vocabulary. My life has always been complicated and I have succeeded in surrounding myself with other “complicated-lifed” people. I know there is no such term but the condition exists. See, maybe this is why my life has been complicated. Plus my progeny also learned to be complicated and so the cycle continued!
Then slowly at my increasing age several goal posts were reached. 35 years in education and then WHAM- retired. And immediately 25 or so lives were out of my jurisdiction but no, I opened an inn in Vermont and suddenly groups of people regularly entered and left my life. I loved both occupations but , come on- simple? Huh uh!
And then……Covid 19 came to
my house! At first there was the scramble to figure out how to socially distance and self isolate. Do I barricade my front door and move heavy objects in front of it? Worry and confusion muddled my life until I found a routine to follow and the realization that I would be spending most of my time alone, which immediately eliminated a huge portion of anti simplicity in my life.
I first was uncomfortable with the quiet. Initially people stayed off the streets. There was very little traffic noise in my area. Even the dog stopped barking because there was nothing for him to bark at! Simplicity was seeping into my life a little bit at a time. And I didn’t like it! But like a numbing gas seeping under my door I was getting used to the quiet and the simplicity of life. The biggest complication was what to have for dinner. Hell, I can always have pasta! Simple!
Then at night I began sitting in the dark on the back porch. My neighborhood is quiet at night and dark. I can feel the gentle breeze and the cool air and I have learned how to sigh. It sounds like this, “Aaahhhh!” My dog and I are pretty much in sink and often our sighs are synchronized! He gives me a lick on the face and then goes and cuddles in a pile with the two cats. I watch, feeling a little left out and wonder why we as people can’t get along as well. My wine glass is getting a little empty so I refill and sit back in my rocker and just as I close my eyes to chill and listen to the silence. I hear the train whistle as it comes over the trestle across the creek and I smile. I imagine hoboes hitching rides in the boxcars taking them to new adventures and I let my imagination go wild. Simplicity has its advantages!
Simple is a Reprieve
Simplicity is a reprieve. It is a respite from the daily ‘busy-ness’ and complications of daily life – I sincerely doubt it is a steady state. But, hey, I’m no expert – so a quick survey of the internet was in order. I checked out a paper from the Journal of the History of Ideas, called Simplicity, a Changing Concept. Unfortunately, it turned out to be too complicated to easily apprehend.
Next steps: poems, quotes, and sound bites – my go-to’s (now there’s simplicity in action)! Usually, poetry expresses larger concepts in fewer words… however, I found no real affinity in the poems that I looked up. Again, they were not delivered in the shape of simplicity. In fact, one poet wrote about morning: “Whether it’s sunny or not, it’s sure to be enormously complex—“(William Meredith, Poem About Morning). He goes on to suggest, why take it on again (i.e., the complexity), when you were duped yesterday. Yikes!
The philosophers have more succinct quotes. Lao Tzu wrote that he had only three things to teach: simplicity, patience, and compassion. I’m pretty sure that Lao Tzu did not write the pictograph instructions that came with the ‘shed-in-a-box’ that I just constructed to store my woodturning logs!
Even Thoreau, the prophet of the Walden Pond, may have been seeking refuge from more than life’s usual complications (although working in a pencil factory wouldn’t appear to be like a telenovela at first glance). Apparently, two years before he moved to the Concord woods, Mr. T almost burned it all down by starting a forest fire (the consequence of trying to barbeque a fish in a hollow stump). Perhaps he relocated because he was tired of being called ‘Hank the Skank’ by the angry townspeople. It sort of gives new context to his quote: “We are happy in the proportion of things we can do without”.
Even Albert Einstein weighed in with his three rules: a) out of clutter, find simplicity, b) out of discord, find harmony, c) in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity. To test this out, I reposed to my messy office, but after two days – dehydrated and weak from hunger – my wife showed me the path out of the room. Strangely, I did find some measure of harmony in the disorder, as though that was meant to be my steady state. However, in regard to Einstein’s third rule, I found that in the middle of difficulty lies more difficulties. (Try filling out a grant application for COVID Personal Protective Equipment).
In sum, I learned that my state of harmony lies smack in the middle of chaos — not apart from it. In homage to Hen, however, I found a quote I think he would like from author Sharon Salzberg:
“We can travel a long way and do many things, but our deepest happiness is not born from accumulating new experiences. It is born from letting go of what is unnecessary, and knowing ourselves to be always at home.”Sharon Salzberg