I can almost predict when it will happen. Every time we come back from camping. Every time we drive through rolling countryside with cottages tucked within them, all sweet and little-house-on-the-prairie like. Every time I read about families who sell virtually all of their material possessions and drastically downsize. Every time I visit the homes of familes who grow their own produce, make their own lemon butter, can their own tomatoes, compost their own garbage.
Each and every time, I get that feeling.
That one that says: Am I doing this wrong?
Could there be more to this life (or perhaps I should say less) than the way I am currently living it?
We killed our tv, yeah. We buy our produce from local markets, sure. But let’s be honest here — we have fallen victim to “stuff” taking over and covering up what’s truly important. In our homes, in our daily schedules, in our own shut-off minds, life can become a continuous cycle of scrolling, clicking, completing, purchasing, committing, shuttling, competing, rushing, practicing, pressuring, uploading, posting, and primping. We don’t watch sunsets like we should. We don’t sit on rocking chairs, looking at stars, sipping cinnamon tea. We don’t unplug. And what we’re plugged into is not necessarily each other. It’s our computers, our small-minded thoughts, our daily frustrations, our to-do list.
As the world becomes more digitized and more commercialized, more processed, more public and more pressured, more frantic and more frenzied, I find myself whisked along with it, wondering if I’m even making conscious choices about what I’m filling my home, my fridge, my closet, my mind and ultimately my life with. And these choices I’m making – are they actually serving me?
Always, I decide they are not. So always, I decide I’m doing it wrong and that I need a simpler life. One with a little wooden house and a porch swing out front. One where children run barefoot through wildflowers and neighbours bake each other pumpkin bread and take the time to ask each other how they really are. One where the sun sets over veggie gardens full of life and abundance and happy husbands are out back chopping wood. One where hand-made quilts cover big cozy beds and light streams in through a sunny orange flower-filled kitchen.
I look at my life and see none of those things, then decide I am no longer happy because I am doing it wrong.
I am missing out.
My child is missing out.
We need to move and change and totally downsize and we need to do it right AWAY, I think.
But how? How will we earn a living? Where will we go? How, how, how?
When I catch myself feeling this feeling – deep discontent; edgy, frustrated incomplete-ness, I try to remind myself that drastic measures are not necessary to grasp what really matters in life. But what about the wildflowers and the porch swings? my mind argues. And I have to will myself to say No. You have to find those things inside. They are not the actual THINGS anyway. They are not what this is about.
I end up hunting around for where I’ve saved one of my most favourite quotes of all time, and when I read it, I read it slowly, with care.
“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”
― William Martin
I remember reading this for the first time and feeling like someone had hit me in the face a bit. The part about the joy of tasting tomatoes, apples and pears?The part about crying when pets and people die? It resonated with me. It completely struck a chord. And it made me think, I got this. I sooooooo got this. I have the ability to live simply, to make the ordinary come alive right here in my current life. And perhaps it doesn’t require a move to the country, a couple of goats and the selling of everything we own to make it happen.
If you are a lover of all things whimsical, you will surely know the work of Katie Daisy. In fact, I’ve just ordered a few of her prints to hang throughout our home to remind ourselves of what we are really striving for – a simple life full of simple joys and great big eyes to see them all.
She has drawn a watercolour print called “Daydream List”, with these words.
“Hello daydream: a clawfoot tub, a sunny yellow kitchen, a belly up kitty in the late sun, a painted wooden porch swing, slow dance in the backyard, a cheerful goldfinch song, fireflies in the grass, banana bread and chamomile tea, a sleeping puppy, an old barn for a studio, the baby in a washtub, the prairie’s morning dew.”
And I love it because it makes me think, Oh my goodness, those things I can totally experience. Okay, maybe not an old barn for a studio. And prairie morning dew — how about just backyard morning dew?
The point is, being aware of my desire to notice the simple joys in an ordinary day makes them happen more easily than I think. Being aware makes me realize that this whimsical life I dream of full of simple, dreamy, happy things is already available to me. Right now. Right today. And when I’m actually noticing them, I realize that so much of what I long for, I’m already creating, here in my current little life.
It’s planting a herb garden and watering it every day, digging our hands into the earth and watching new life grow.
It’s running through our backyard in swimmers and gumboots, getting wet under the spray of our garden hose.
It’s looking up during the middle of cooking dinner and spending five minutes watching her – really truly watching her – when she jumps out from inside her tent, over and over, giggling with satisfaction because she managed to shock the cat.
It’s coming out to find her on our front steps, talking to herself and pruning the dead flower heads off, just like I showed her.
It’s spun-sugar hair, all golden in the sunlight.
It’s stopping at second-hand bookstores, using our money to thrift our finds rather than adding to the pot of production and waste.
It’s being handed Sri Lankan home-baked goods by our neighbours to the left, cooked ‘especially for you’, and having Joel show me Sri Lankan phrases we ‘have to learn’ like delicious and hello. It’s passing them back fresh cherry tomatoes from our vine to keep the flow of giving and receiving in tact.
It’s long, leisurely chats over the fence with our neighbours to the right as we watch the sun set over our kids running to each other and passing cashew nuts through the fence. It’s making them a big pot of spaghetti because morning sickness has hit their family, and it’s them popping over to give us 50% off vouchers to the restaurant they know we are going to because they ‘just had it lying around’. I finally do have the village community I’d always dreamed of having – where milk is borrowed, kids are minded and food is baked.
It’s picking mandarins straight from our tree.
It’s smooth skin and deep eyes and tangled wet hair.
It’s removing all the excess junk from our home and wardrobes and toy boxes. It’s knowing that half the stuff we have is not necessary and taking those extra things to families or thrift shops which need them.
It’s asking pet owners if we can pat their dogs as they walk by and watching their faces when they talk about their beloved companion.
It’s going into the backyard with Joel late at night, lit only by the glow of our garden lights, breathing in the fresh air.
It’s following blogs which give me ideas and inspiration to repurpose, to up cycle and to build myself.
It’s lying under the stars at night.
It’s having flowers on our kitchen bench.
It’s taking baths outside.
It’s showing my child the joy of tasting tomatoes, apples and pears.
It’s showing her how to cry when pets and people die.
It’s glimpsing what really matters in life, and regarding it with care, decorating it with flowers, covering it with love, holding it in the sunshine.
And all these things are within my reach, no goats or porch swings necessary.
Getting ready for our Halloween party on the weekend. I’m in love with my role as Memory Matriarch, and as I make Halloween costumes for the very first time and decorate our home, my heart is soaring.
Hoping your week is all kinds of shades lovely.
What simple things are you enjoying?