Sunday, November 15, 2009

in search of simplicity

image from here

I've always been drawn to idealistic extremes. As a young adult, I made many embarassing bold proclamations that may have gotten me a bit of a reputation. Mostly, they earned me the merciless mocking of my younger sister.

I wanted radical simplicity. I thought that bread, apples, and cheese would be the perfect diet. I wanted to eat nothing else.

I wanted to live in a spartan dwelling, like the apartment prepared for the prophet elijah, a small room with "a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp" (2 Kings 4:8).

And perhaps a bowl, a spoon, and a book.

Books about thoughtful people in prison appealed to me probably because it seemed great to be in a very austere, minimal environment. You could read, or write your thoughts. Besides your meals, there was little else to consider.

In high school I took to wearing jeans and white t-shirts every day (or most days). Even today, I love the idea of not really having to think about what to wear. I have a couple pairs of pants, a tall stack of white t-shirts, and maybe 3 sweaters that I rotate among (I do have more clothes than that, but those are what I wear most days). In summer, I usually have one or two pairs of shorts that I wear pretty much all summer.

Indulge me a little longer on this reflection.

A couple of years ago, I read a book that inspired me to embrace this minimalism with regard to my diet. Not the bread, apples, and cheese diet, but a diet that inspired me to eliminate foods not in their natural state. Butter, not margarine. No prepackaged, processed, complicated foods with long illegible labels. Rather, fresh produce, milk, eggs. Jars of rice, lentils, beans. Homemade bread, biscuits. Honey, olive oil.

A diet that perhaps a 15th century monk would recognize. With some exceptions of course.

In the area of home furnishings, Adam influenced me to move towards glass, metal, and wood, rather than plastics, in the kitchen. And I sold my ikea pressboard shelves and made some of my own rustic, quirky creations to take their place. I realized that I preferred fabrics of cotton and wool and linen rather than synthetic blends for curtains, sheets, or towels.

In all of this, I've had a lot of fun discovering old fashioned, minimal ways.

But my biggest challenge is the middle path, something that has never been my strong point.

Shaving my head and throwing everything away is not a good thing. Holding onto bits of string, rubber bands, found paper, found wood, miscellaneous glues, tape, old letters, tools for various handcrafts and hobbies and cooking, old wine corks, bottles of various drove me crazy. Adam's clutter...well, I eyed it with fantasies of donating things to the goodwill.

Then I realized that his collection of stuff is valuable, and time and time again he has the little gadget or tool that is exactly what i need, and chances are it dates back to when he was in high school or before. Which is pretty awesome.

I guess the austerity of a monk's cell is not exactly what my life's destiny is. But there is an austerity that I do think is right, for me. I think it's the choice to buy less, and try to make more, to patch old things, buy old or used things whenever I can. To have fewer things in order to have less mental clutter.

I guess this quest for the perfect formula for a simple, mindful life is my life's journey. And letting go of easy, extreme answers is not easy but it's part of my learning to be balanced.

Also, being kind and accepting of others is far more important than achieving that pure, simple, and somewhat intolerant art form that I have a weakness for.

Monday, November 09, 2009

homemade shelves

i waste/spend a lot of time looking at pictures like these online. there is something so great about imperfection and handmade objects.

i think this winter may involve some book-making, but there's nothing wrong with doing a little research for when i return to some furniture making.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

movie recommendations

I'm super excited to be going to see "Where the Wild Things Are" tomorrow. I just get the idea that it will be magical and fairy feeling, somehow.

Adam & I have watched lots of movies and along the way we've come across some that are just wonderful. From time to time I think about sharing a list of my favorites, because some of them are just really inspiring and uplifting and make you feel good about being alive. Of course they're most helpful for someone with access to a great library or netflix, as they're not all very mainstream.

The Fall

I picked this one up because it had a really visually arresting cover, with lots of beautiful bold colors. The movie really was amazing visually, with intense reds and greens and blues from nature and from ethnic settings. But it also was heartwarming to the point of tears, and it was about love in unexpected places. And about not losing hope, even when all hope seems lost. This is probably one movie that I could watch over and over again, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

Etre et Avoir

We are in the middle of this one, but it's so heartwarming to watch this kid's eye view of what school is like, for little french children (in a one-room school) learning to draw their sevens, and count, and struggling to focus long enough to finish coloring a picture. Am I saying heartwarming on all of these? I guess maybe that's what I like in a movie.

The Decalogue

This is a series of 10 movies based loosely on the 10 commandments, but the interpretations are surprising. The movies are an hour each and in Polish, if I remember correctly. But the writing is so good, and there is such an amazing exploration of challenging human experiences, from a little child asking what happens to a dog when it dies, to brothers inheriting their father's stamp collection and fighting over it. Small issues explored really deeply. Very enjoyable. Not just a movie you watch because you know you should.

That's all for now. My memory is prodigiously bad, so there are probably many more amazing movies I've forgotten. I'll try to remember more. But I'd love to hear if anyone else has seen these, or has their own movie recommendation to share.