Sometimes the things you need are attracted to you. They come to you without your asking, maybe even without you knowing that you need them. They can be anything: plants, animals, objects, colors, or best of all, people. Reading all your lovely, thoughtful, long comments I feel like I must have done something right in this life or the last, to have gathered such an amazing collection of kindred spirits. (A special thank you for chiming in to those of you who don't usually comment or are new to this log.)
As you may know, I generally don't reply to comments (I don't have the time, and I would much rather check our you log and leave you one.), but now I feel that the only way this conversation idea is going to work is my by answering your questions, expanding on ideas you've brought to me and countering your arguments.
While, as Adie pointed out, we sadly can't all of us just sit down with some wine (or preferably Adie and Art's delicious home-brewed beer) and hash it all out, I'm hoping that we can have an exchange of ideas, one that we can all get something out of. I know I've certainly already gained a wealth of new thoughts and strength from just reading all your comments.
Lately, in addition to lovely folk, I've been attracting gifts, particularly in the color green so the pictures accompanying this post are of all the different wondrous things I've been blessed with lately. Like this dress scored at a clothing exchange that used to be my dear friend Sona's when she was a teenager.
The dress itself is lovely, but it means so much more because it was hers at such a crucial time in her life. To boot, Sona and her hubby gifted us with a big hunk of rhubarb, which is pretty much the only thing besides peas enjoying this cold weather.
Even back in California, both Missa and Amber gave me some lovely green things, and since then they have just kept on coming, culminating with a package from Heather, entitled "The Forest Dweller" (a title I am delighted to accept), which contained a number of beautiful things, among them a green corduroy dress and a little green romper.
(I spy with my little eye a sticker from Violet Folklore?)
"How did she get from Simple Living to clothes so quickly?" You may be wondering quietly to yourself. Well, since I don't have Brigit's mad posting-from-the-future-skillz, I have accumulated a collection of green-hued outfits in the last week or so and I wanted to share them with you. And there is a pons asinorum (in Finnish we call this tactic literally "donkey's bridge", ) in here somewhere.
See, all your insightful, encouraging comments were actually quite the relief for me, because it took me a while just to craft up that post in all its briefness, for the worry that I was going to sound like a self-righteous schmuck. As Amber pointed out, a lot of people who talk of Simplicity are all about doing it their way, and over-hauling your life completely, buying this new life-style just as much as the one they are trying to separate from.
(Cat postcards, calico notebooks feathers and CDs from Darin, oh my!♡)
In spite my proclamations to the contrary I sometimes feel like I somehow have no right to post about things of any seriousness, when in the very next sentence I exclaim over my new-to-me-frock.
I'm certainly not the poster child for living simply, without frivolities. As much as someone else might think I'm living some sort of dream-life, I still spend a lot of time berating myself for things I've done less thoughtfully than I'd have liked to, agonize over choices and ponder my hypocrisies (like the afore-mentioned dress vs. seriousness-a topic for another post altogether).
But I think that's exactly why we all need to talk about this, because so many of us are attempting to get closer to the land, some ephemeral idea of freedom calling us, and instead of feeling ashamed of the ways in which we fail, or don't comply with some image we have, we need to hear from others and learn that there are many different little ways of doing these things. Like Missa said in her comment, we all need to be very merciful towards ourselves, taking small steps towards our ideals.
I feel like part of why we've slowly formed this informal community, is to connect with like-minded souls, to give each other strength and inspiration. (And, occasionally, pretty frocks...)
(A Moonshine Junkyard original hand-made top for summer-whoo!)
We can also only do things within our resources; someone living in a city (though living in a city doesn't seem to much hinder simple living ;), working a 9-5 may not much benefit from the exact ideas I might have, nor is it necessary for them to try to do what I, or someone else is doing. If having an old car, or chickens doesn't fit in your current life, then what the heck, do something else.
Amber, someone who's amazing energy I've always admired from a distance (The girl is an awesome mom, a vintage seller, herbalist witch woman and a prodigious reader, who somehow still manages to take up to 2 baths a day. Seriously, I find the latter to be an almost magical feat ;), mentioned that she actually felt grateful that she didn't have a good spot for a garden because it's one less thing to do. Yet, for as long as I've known her, I've looked up to her as someone who's very mindful in her life choices. (Check out this wealth of information on motherhood, mindful child rearing, health, food and family she's got archived in this beautiful log. I remember first reading her daughter Mycelia's birth story and being just blown away the confidence and thoughtfulness her and her partner Graham had as they made their first decisions as young parents.)
(Produce gifted by a friend who got it from a friend of theirs who you-picked it on trip to California. They brought back hundreds of pounds of fruit and shared it with everyone.)
Simplicity to me, is not some dreamy ideal of living in the country and having the most perfect rustic life, but rather the whole glorious spectrum of existence; going to the grocery store, mending the same sock for the third time, walking in the woods, trading jams, doing laundry...
Actually, doing laundry is of my favorite indulgences. After getting a (free!) washer and dryer late last year, (after two years of day-long laundromat runs) I love and appreciate it so. Which, of course is another perk of Simplicity, the appreciation for the smallest, most mundane things, like being able to cook and do laundry at the same time! This particular joy makes me feel so connected to my grandma, a mother of five, who in the fifties got her very first hand-crank washer.
Nicky commented that a part of her rebelled against the idea of living as simply as us (and we really are not that out there at all in our circle of folk), because if everyone did what we do, our society (I'm paraphrasing here so correct me if I'm not getting the gist of it right m'dear) wouldn't be able to function. And perhaps it wouldn't.
I totally respect Nicky's more "mainstream" point-of-view, but also believe that to a degree we are all of us engaged in some degree of simple living here, whether it be in the form of crafting, vintage selling, or gardening. It really is only a matter of degrees.
And while there could be endless debate about what we really need and what parts of our complex society are necessary to whom, I do believe that everyone in our Western world could do with a little more time and connection to the land. Whether it's moving to a shack without electricity, or growing some herbs on your windowsill, doesn't really matter.
Though I find myself getting more radical with each passing year, I'm totally not into judging others who make the conscious choice to follow different paths. It's just that a lot of folk seem to fall into patterns like the "work-spend cycle" without ever thinking they had other options. Voluntary simplicity to me is just about having a few more choices.
Financial security, or the illusion of it, stirred a variety of different emotions in the comments.
Many of you confessed that you were "forced" to choose a simpler life-style because of financial difficulties, but were making the best of it, while others stated that some of the happiest, most care-free times in their lives had been the materially least abundant and financially least stable.
As Adie mentioned this most recent "recession" (see the ridiculous definition to explain why I used quotation marks) has had a lot of positive effects on those who were already on the fringes of the strange amorphous entity they call the economy (I kind of think that economy is sort of like the Jabberwocky. Except less real.).
Most micro-economies have actually gained strength from the growing disillusionment in mainstream economy. People buy a lot more hand-made and local goods and the appreciation fine craftsmanship, durability and originality seems to be on the rise.
The hand-made culture has not seen a renaissance like this since 70s, thrifting has gone mainstream, craigslist is flourishing and the organic movement actually gained momentum during this downturn. We now make more person-to-person business transactions than we have since since the 60s. And while this movement was in full swing before the downturn, it seemed gain further strength from it.
All these small actions we are part of is helping create an alternative economy, one in which we can get more deeply immersed and participate in, rather than just being passive consumers.
(A beautiful dress from Heather. A beautiful second skin for this forest dweller.)
While both food and consumption are definite topics for future posts, I will add that the first advice I would give to anyone starting out on Simplicity would be to start eating local and organic. I know it's the same old tip, given more eloquently by many more talented writers, but that's where its at. Alissa who asked for my ideas on starting in a more simpler direction is already doing this in her lovely blog.
I'm hoping to come up with other concrete ideas to dispense over the next Simplicity posts.
One facet of Simplicity, that kept appearing in your comments, and one with which we could all experiment (see the best advice is coming from ya'll), is bartering-the exchange of goods and services without money changing hands.
Teeny's recent experiences with trades have certainly been very inspiring to follow. From her bartering home-grown produce for all kinds of fabulous goodies, to Amber's giving some time to "pay" for Mycelia's pre-school, to our very own trades in the form of clothes swaps, exchanging goods and services is a great way for everyone to get what they need and get to know their friends and neighbours a little better in the process. It's definitely something I'd like to do more of and am quite in awe of Teeny's little bartering circle.
Being so used to putting a monetary value on things, can really hinder one's bartering confidence, which is exactly why it's so important to engage in it; to remember that money is not everything and to feel empowered by the fact that one does not always need it. In addition to getting something you need, or rid of something you don't, you can also gain the satisfaction of helping your fellow folk along the way.
As Mary pointed out, receiving gifts, barter items, or help makes you in turn more generous with your time and resources. You start parting with things with much more joy and deliberation. Giving becomes more pleasurable than receiving when you know there's more than monetary value in question. Even things that you paid money for, but weren't quite right, those cursed items you hang onto year after year in the hopes of getting your money's worth someday, become easy to pass along.
A few years ago C. and I were debating buying a fan for our wood stove (it helps distribute the heat more evenly around the house), a purchase though not big, still relatively pricey for us just then (over a hundred bucks). We ended up deciding we needed it, but shortly after we made our purchase, his cousin got us one for a surprise wedding present. In debating whether to return our fan and get a refund, or maybe try to sell it on our community's excellent notice board (a lot of bartering going on there!), we suddenly realized that some friend's of ours didn't actually have one and decided to give it to them as a "baby-warming gift" (they were about to become parents) instead.
Would we normally have bought them a hundred-dollar gift? Probably not. But faced with the generosity of others it was easy for us to be generous in turn. I feel like C.'s cousin gave us two gifts instead of one and as much as I appreciate the lovely, warmth-spreading fan, I appreciate the lesson even more.
Imagining a neighbor enjoying your prize tomatoes, or a fellow blog-sister frolicking in the dress you hand-picked, as well as receiving such gifts is a feeling entirely unlike shopping for goods. There is independence and thought and love in these exchanges.
In fact, it seems to me that there are actually very few real things money can buy. I was incensed to read of the comments the lovely Anne has had to endure in regards to her and her husband's finances and their impending (very, very impending ;) family of six: "and speaking of having children (and not having a lot of money)...well that is something that just doesn't go over well! i can't tell you how many people have been disgusted that i'm pregnant again in current financial situation."
(Skirt and top from Amber. More of beloved memories from California.)
The idea that children would need anything more than one or more loving parents, a roof over their heads and some food on the table, some extended family, natural beauty and adventure is laughable to me. What else could they need? Princess videos? New bikes? Plastic swingsets? Do they need a bigger home? A minivan? Do they come out of the womb asking for anything more than nourishment and love and warmth? When it comes right down to it: do any of us need more than that?
(There was a little embroidered handkerchief in the pocket, courtesy of one Mycelia Violet. I shall always keep it there♡.)
(Thank goodness Anne has a good head on her shoulders and is surrounded by grounded,awesome ladies, both online and off. I'm in awe of all the crafty, thrifty, earthy and stylish mothers keeping it real, I've had the pleasure of getting to know through this weird, digital land (here we go with the connection again!). I feel like I have this awesome resource for wisdom at my fingertips, should I ever need mothering knowledge in the future ;)
Separating need and want, social pressure from choice, can be some of the harder things to confront when embarking on a simpler life, but as Sara pointed out, what we need is instinctive to us, if we do enough reflection on what matters to us the most, it's relatively easy to find our way. And judging from all your comments you are finding just that, each on your own path.
I hope this conversation helps you get a little further down the road. It is certainly helping me, affirming, encouraging, empowering. Let's keep going, who knows where we'll end up...
We'll meet along the way, I know.
Merry Spring my ladies of the meadows and city parks under the May Moon and skylarks and swallows,