Gift from the Sea, Channeled Whelk ~ part 2

Shell Painting, originally uploaded by ivoryblushroses.

I mean to lead a simple life, to choose a simple shell I can carry easily – like a hermit crab.”

“One learns first of all in beach living the art of shedding; how little one can get along with, not how much.”

“I remember again, ironically, that today more of us in America than anywhere else in the world have the luxury of choice between simplicity and complication of life. And for the most part, we, who could choose simplicity, choose complication. War, prison, survival periods, enforce a form of simplicity on man. The monk and the nun choose if of their own free will. But if one accidently finds it, as I have for a few days, one finds also the serenity it brings.”

“I played a game on the beach. To ask how little, not how much, can I get along with. To say—is it necessary?—when I am tempted to add one more accumulation to my life, when I am pulled toward one more centrifugal activity.”

Simplicity is something that I have yearned toward for many years. Some days, I feel it is hopeless as I am in inveterate pack-rat, not only of possessions, but of things to do. I seek to find balance in all things. To pare possessions down to only that which is necessary, to commit to doing things only after prayer and thought given to how it will impact my life.

AML notes that for some people, simplicity is thrust upon them without choice. We felt that way after our house fire for a time. We stayed with my parents for a week and then moved into a rental house provided by the insurance. It came complete with furnishings and accoutrements necessary for daily living such as sheets and towels, dishes, pots and pans, even a few pictures on the wall. What a strange thing it is to walk into a house and know that it will be home for several months, having chosen neither the house nor the furnishings. To open the closet and have hanging there only a couple of outfits, because you own no others. It was like living in someone else’s hotel room.

In the following weeks, we learned what was important to us in a home. Among the first things we did was to visit the craft store for supplies to create things, to keep our hands busy. I made a small afghan that is on my bed today and is now the favorite spot for the cats to sleep. We also realized how little we like living with all new things, that we wanted things around us with history. So when it came time to shop for furniture, we perused antique stores, flea markets and gladly accepted donations from family and friends.
There was a period of time that all the laundry in the house was able to be completed in just two or three loads. Chores like ironing gave me much pleasure because there wasn’t an enormous pile to do. It was easy to iron just a few shirts and a couple of dresses and skirts. Dishes were done quickly after each meal, rarely left to accumulate. Vacuuming was done every couple of days. We found that with the simplicity of our surroundings, these things were a joy.

But soon, we fell into the trap of purchasing things. The thought process was often, “Oh, we had one of those before the fire, we should replace it.” And the donated items poured in and it was so hard to let go of things so generously given to us. Within a surprisingly short time, we had accumulated nearly as much as we had lost and sad to say, with it, our joy in simple chores diminished as well. We had the opportunity to choose simplicity but instead choose complication.

Now, 9 years later, I struggle with the effort to recreate that simpler time. I’ve written before on this blog about my efforts at downsizing. The memory of that time when enforced simplicity brought a measure of serenity encourages me to keep at it. To continuously ask “how little can I get along with,” not how much. To ask, “is it necessary?”


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