Tonight I took my first step towards simplicity by visiting my Bloglines account and hitting the "Mark All Read" button. Let's face it: I've fallen irreparably behind in my blog reading. This fact has been dogging me for several months, but now I can breath a sigh of relief in having taken my first step towards simplifying my life. Creating clean slates are not usually so easy. I know, I cheated. But it was sort of liberating all at the same time.
Lately I've been finding myself daydreaming about organized closets and drawers and shelves. My mind drifts over and over again to the built-in cabinets in the breakfast nook of my parent's old house. "The nook" was where my mom kept all of her linens and napkins, fancy silverware, and an extra set of dishes. That little room was the epitome of organization. Never was there a single thing out of place--and that also went for the rest of the house too. I do not have such grand expectations for that level of orderliness--but, I admit, I've caught myself in daydreams about perfectly folded napkins and imaginings of what my life would look like if it were organized into trendy labeled boxes. Of course, I know that inside those boxes my life would still be just as messy as ever. The linen napkins (if I actually had any) would still be unnecessary clutter that I would be better off getting rid of.
I sat down to write about the notion of simplification. Instead, my thoughts keep veering towards what lies beneath our need for simplification in the first place. For some reason, the words "simple" and "organized" keep getting cross-wired in my brain. I am aware of the fact that the simplest (and significantly happier) times of my life were also the times that I had the least possessions. In this way, my life became organized, even in all of its randomness. Life was simple.
And, with this, my thoughts shift away from my childhood memories of folded linens and towards the contents of the backpack that I carried with me through India and Nepal. Once, in Kathmandu, I laid out each individual item on my bed, weighed its necessity for my journey, and decided what to keep and what to get rid of. I was so pleased with the results that I even drew a picture of it. Simplicity perfected.
I think that this is how Thoreau felt when he word-sketched the image of the day he cleaned his cabin on Walden Pond. It is an image that has always stuck with me. I am in love with the simplicity of being able to remove the contents of your house, give it a good clean, and then put it back together--all in one fell swoop. I went so far as to find my own small shack in the woods, with no water or electricity. I carried everything I needed in on my back. I cooked my food on an open fire. I bathed in nearby lake. Life was simple. As it was when I traveled abroad, as it was when I hopped freight trains, or rode my bike cross-country, or lived out of the back of my truck with my old dog Japhy (named after Japhy Ryder from my favorite Jack Kerouac book, The Darhma Bums).
Maybe it was the crispness of those linens that sent me off towards the unconventional life that I ended up living. I never liked the formalities of my parent's house. God forbid, I should ever have a formal dining room of my own. Never mind that I now live in a regular house in a regular neighborhood with a regular overabundance of stuff. Like many, I daydream of shedding the excess weight of accumulation.
If I were to pack my life up to fit in a backpack once again, what would I bring with me? And, stretching these musings out even further, where would I go?
What would I bring?
- my big, fat journal
- the accordion moleskine (the one that I never use because I don't take the time to doodle, but want to)
- 1 pair of jeans (the new, very comfortable ones that I just bought yesterday)
- 3 books (because 1 is never enough--I haven't decided which ones)
- a box of colored pencils, a tin of watercolors, and some paint brushes
- a pen
- 1 nalgene water bottle (because I drink a lot of water)
- insulated coffee cup (because I love my hot coffee or tea)
- 1 flannel
- 1 wool sweater (better than North Face any day)
- rain jacket and pants
- a couple changes of socks and underwear
- sleeping bag
- 2 t-shirts
- 1 long sleeve shirt
- my stretchy black yoga pants
- little Buddha statue (the one that has traveled with me everywhere for good luck)
- my dogs (for sure)
Oh, this is the hard part. I don't know...but I see myself heading for the Canadian Rockies. I imagine deep greens of pine forests, the thin air of the mountains, and plenty of solititude to write, hike, contemplate, and draw.
And if I were to draw a conclusion from my babblings...I would have to say that to simplify is to put things into perspective. To simplify, is to live deliberately. As ol' Thoreau used to say:
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan- like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.
Find more simplicity here.