Monday, June 23, 2008

Simple Gifts

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift 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.

I have long been drawn to this Shaker song and to the simple way of life. But, in some ways, it was much easier to live a life of simplicity before marriage and children. Now I must balance the needs of my family, striving for a practical, family-focused simplicity. It's been on my heart for some time now that I've strayed from my values of simplicity. I've allowed more unnecessary clutter to creep into our life, and I've chosen convenience over mindful consumption far too many times.

Recently, I started hanging my clothing out to dry on a clothesline again. It took a bit more effort than just throwing everything into the dryer. However, not only did I use less electricity to run that dryer, but I also received blessings in return. The slow cadence of clipping clothespins on the clothesline, reminding me that there is no need to hurry, this world moves too fast. The communion with my son as he helped me to take the clothes off of the line while a thunderstorm rolled in. The feel and smell of the cool breeze wafting by, drawing me into its beauty in a way that I don't slow down to appreciate often enough. Even the simple beauty of the laundry swaying on the line.

Patriarch Bartholomew, in his remarks at an Environmental Symposium in 1997, noted that, "Asceticism requires from us a voluntary restraint in order for us to live in harmony with our environment." And that, "Asceticism... will lead us... to a world in which we will give as well as take from creation." I think people often believe that making choices which are kinder to the environment will involve a lot of drudgery and hardship. Often, I find quite the opposite to be true. Yes, sometimes it does take a little more effort to step out of our ordinary mode of ease and convenience. But the blessings often far outweigh the costs. A small choice to hang my clothes to dry on a clothesline brought me such a number of simple joys that I look forward to doing it again and again.

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