‘Tis the gift to be simple, ‘tis the g
ift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight
When true simplicity is gain’d,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ‘round right.
-Joseph Brackett (1797 & 1882)
Shaker dancing song – permission
Granted for nonprofit purposes.
On Thanksgiving NPR had a full morning program with music, poetry and small talks about what we should be grateful for. The above song was sung by several different singers or played on some musical instrument off and on that morning along with other songs, too. One group I especially enjoyed listening to was Contuse. It made me think how far from a simple life any of us lead anymore – some even less than others, if you consider a constantly connected lifestyle.
|I'm with Molly, the dog I had before Maggie.|
How many people actually enjoy quiet time anymore? How many take time to walk in the woods without talking on their phone at the same time? How many actually sit down and read a book - one with paper pages to turn? How many people rake leaves instead of using a powerful noisy leaf blower? How many were out shopping and braving the pushing, noisy crowds on Black Friday, or even on Thanksgiving?
|I read John Steinbeck's The Red Pony when I was seven.|
I’m one of those who refuse to shop on Thanksgiving Day or Black Friday. There is no way I would fight those crowds looking for gifts for my grown children, siblings, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Not only is it overwhelming to shop for that many people, but what to buy them is a bit daunting. Yes, I do the gift cards, too, but I hate giving only that, and shopping is not something I enjoy. Well maybe in garden centers or independent book stores. Besides, especially for the little ones, I can’t imagine how I can compete with the amount of toys they are getting and already have. I remember the gifts my siblings and I got when we were kids. Under our Christmas tree – and I still decorate a real tree like we always had – were five gifts for each of us. Maybe there were more for my youngest brother who is twenty-one years younger than I am. There were no toy boxes overloaded with toys, and yet we never felt deprived. We were happy with what we got. Depending on my age then, I usually got a doll, maybe a horse statue, and always a book or two, and maybe something new to wear, but I can’t remember what else. My Grandpa Jones always gave each of us a silver dollar, although once when I was fourteen, he gave me a pair of new black jeans. It was probably my grandmother’s idea. I was the first one in my school to wear black jeans, but soon they became popular.
This year when my grown kids, grandchildren and great-grandchildren came to my house the Sunday evening before Christmas, the little ones tore into their gifts and then looked for more. What they got this year from their parents, their grandparents and aunts and uncles was enough to open a toy store. A few days after Christmas my granddaughter said she’d packed boxes of their older toys still in decent shape to donate to Goodwill.
And it’s not just Christmas and the holidays. What about the rest of the year? How many can actually put their cell phones aside? My brother mentioned on Thanksgiving when we had a discussion about the addiction so many have to their cell phones, he’d told his youngest son he wouldn’t take him out to eat if he looked at his cell phone even once instead of carrying on an adult conversation with him. I noticed his older son and daughter-in-law didn’t look at their cell phones while they were visiting with us, but I wonder if it was hard for them not to do so.
|Not a picture I took or in my neighborhood.|
Five or six years ago Amish families started moving into the township where I live. For years they’ve lived not very far north of me, so I’m familiar with the Amish and their customs, but I do enjoy seeing their horse and buggies going by my house now. Some people denigrate their way of life, but for me I admire their simple life although I admit I wouldn’t want to be without electricity, a car or a phone, although many of the Amish do have cell phones now. Last month I looked out my upstairs window just in time to see an Amish woman go buy in a cart pulled by a pony. I had to smile at that.
|Both the cart & pony I saw were smaller.|
Okay, maybe in many ways I’m old-fashioned, but I think I get more enjoyment out of life by leading a more or less simple life. Yes, I have a computer and I like it, but I don’t want to be on it all day nor do I want to spend hours on Facebook. I have an old-fashioned land line phone. Well, sort of. It usually lets me know if the caller is someone I know, and it’s not connected to a wall so I can walk around with it while talking. As for a cell phone, all I have is a little Tracfone my kids think I should have while walking in the woods or driving somewhere. Only my three kids have that number, and they aren’t allowed to call me on it unless it’s something important. So when I go for my walks, I can enjoy the world around me. I can hear the birds and notice spring flowers and fungi in the fall.
Other things I don’t have. I don’t have a dishwasher. Why waste cupboard space when it’s easy enough to wash my dishes the old fashioned way, especially since I usually eat alone. Although I do have a washer and dryer, I still hang clothes out to dry on nice days. I love the order when I hang my washing neatly on the line under a maple tree with birds singing nearby, and the fresh smell of clothes and sheets dried outside. My TV is an older one because I don’t watch much TV, and I don’t have cable because the old antenna works quite well for getting PBS, my channel of choice. I drive a small, older car that’s energy efficient because like Garrison Keillor would say, “it’s good enough.” It has no bells and whistles, but does have a radio and CD player. Most of my vacations are camping with my sisters or sometimes with my youngest daughter. That is a simple life and one I not only enjoy, but makes me appreciate electricity, my comfortable bed and an indoor bathroom when I get home.
|One of my sisters on a camping trip we took in PA.|
I know my life style could be simpler, but I don’t want to go without the things I’m comfortable with like electricity, hot water, a microwave, a furnace, or my computer. I don’t need all the books in my house, but I love having them around me, especially if something piques my curiosity, and it reminds me of a book I read and might want to read again. For instance I’m on a reading marathon of rereading all the Margaret Maron Judge Deborah Knott series, and enjoying them just as much as I did when first started reading them years ago. Of course, for research Google usually solves that problem.
How simple is your life style?
How could you simplify things?