Forgive my lengthy absence in writing; I wasn’t able to afford internet service and heading to the library here was out of the question as I also couldn’t afford to keep my car! Now, before you all go getting sorry for me, just stop. STOP! I’m not sorry for me! I am happier now than at any point in my life thus far.
And since today is Earth Day, I think it’s quite appropriate to share my “secret”. Read on, but do so only if you promise not to feel sorry for me.
I was forced to drastically downsize due to an accident that has left my spine in a rather fragile state. I wasn’t able to return to teaching and any other work was out of the question. Where does one find a job where you can sit, but not too long, and then stand for a few minutes before your back needs a break? A job that requires NO lifting at all, no bending at all, no reaching high over your head at all? A job where you can lay down when your spine just can’t take another minute in an upright position? In my condition, I couldn’t even be a Walmart greeter!
You’ve heard the expression, “When God closes a door, He opens a window.” How very true that statement is!
It wasn’t an easy journey, getting to this point in my life. I had to come to terms with my newly-limited physical abilities and that was a bit tough. I like to think I can do anything, but the truth is, some days it’s tough to bend over to make the bed. And changing sheets? I need to kneel to do that. Without income, I had to turn to the small bit of savings and investments I’d begun not too many years previously. With the help of a dear friend, I fixed up the master bedroom in my townhouse and found an awesome Navy captain to rent it during the week; he returned home on weekends. But that just wasn’t enough to keep me above water.
I’d visited West Virginia a few months earlier and had fallen in love with the beauty of the state and its people. I had literally come home to a place I’d never been before. So I knew just where I wanted to move. My three children, all grown, encouraged me to move there. I invited friends and family to select anything from my home that they might like for themselves. I was SO grateful for those who took up my offer! I enlisted the help of an auctioneer who conducted an online auction in January. That eliminated more than half of my household goods. Instead of sorrow, I felt relief as my “stuff” was adopted to new homes. I needed furniture that was lighter, didn’t collect dust easily, and was small in scale for my new life in the Mountain State.
It’s a bit funny, but the hardest thing to part with was my old Barbie doll and all of her clothing. Barbie was circa 1960-ish with a “bubble” hairstyle. In those days, girls would purchase a single doll in a small rectangular box and then select an outfit for her from an incredible array of beautiful, detailed clothing and accessories. Outfits were displayed in packages that resembled cardboard picture frames. I’d kept my Barbie’s outfits in immaculate condition. The night before she (and they) walked into the arms of a new owner, I laid out all of my Barbie, Skipper (her little sister), and Francie (cousin?) outfits and admired them all. I sorted them into packets – the kitchen apron, tools, and miniature plastic Corning Ware items in one, a little record player and two records in another, you get the idea. It was a neat trip down memory lane as I recalled occasions when different outfits had been received as gifts. I allowed myself time to just be with the doll that had given me so much pleasure over the years. Then – and only then – was I ready to relinquish her.
My first home in West Virginia was a little, older, single-wide trailer in Seneca Rocks. I just loved that trailer! It was like a glamorous Girl Scout camp cabin, complete with running water and electricity. (“Veteran” Girl Scouts like me will recall how wonderful it was to have your very own “house” at camp, with an orange crate for a nightstand, a squeaky metal cot frame and thin mattress to sleep on, and flashlights to illuminate the dark once the sun set! We used to arrange rocks in front of our cabin as if we were landscaping our dream homes.)
I was enchanted with my little trailer. I’d kept only the household items that I knew I’d need and absolutely loved, and that would fit in the smaller dimensions of a trailer. Everything looked as if it had been collected for a country home. My odd antiques (pitch fork, hay pick, cabbage cutter…) fit right in.
Perhaps what I found most enjoyable about my new little place was that I was able to afford to put up window treatments on ALL the windows; as a single mom for the last 21 years, this was an unheard of luxury. And since I didn’t have to contend with three stories of townhouses on all sides, the window treatments didn’t have to create complete privacy. I looked out on Germany Knob in one directions, a state park in another – I WANTED to see the mountains and the trees and the incredible display of stars each night! What a treat that was – what a treat that IS!
My furnishings fit the trailer perfectly. I used a vintage green and cream, porcelain-topped kitchen table with two pull-out leaves in my kitchen, setting it under the window the same way my grandmother had placed her table back in Medina, New York. An old, round, wooden table discovered at a yard sale was positioned in the front room, in a corner. Everything just fell into place.
I’d wondered if there would be enough room in the kitchen. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I could still use my trusty old Tupperware flour containers – everything fit!
I still had a lot of extras, and I figured that I would. I wasn’t sure what items I’d want to decorate my new home with. So when I learned of a family who’d lost everything they’d owned in a house fire in January, I knew just what I wanted to do with the objects I loved but didn’t have room for. I invited the family members in to see what they’d like. Their mom collected Longaberger pottery and baskets. I was happy to give her my mixing bowls and two pitchers and a pie plate, all the original Longaberger pottery. I wasn’t giving up anything – I was gifting them! I gave her two Longaberger baskets, some kitchen items that were either too large for one person or were duplicates, a few things I’d decorated the walls with. But the one thing that really made the family happy was a Fontanini Nativity. All of their Christmas items had been lost in the fire, too. So I gave them a lot of my extra decorations – and ornaments that were beautiful but that I just never used. It feels good to share things that I’ve loved and used with someone who was not expecting something so nice. I’ve done this before, when helping refugee families settle into our area. Why give people discards when they’ve left or lost all that they’ve known and loved across the Atlantic? Give what you cherish – it’s a small sacrifice, if that, for someone who’s made a much larger sacrifice.
Having less means I have more time to spend on what I love. I’m not storing or dusting or worrying about items getting broken. I can concentrate on exploring my new home, meeting new friends, learning the area customs, writing.
My son made a revealing comment the first time he visited me. “Mom, people in Northern Virginia have big homes and lots of nice ‘stuff’ because they don’t have all of this…” he said as he gestured toward the mountains. So true! In Northern Virginia, my home was a haven from the congestion of the area, from the noise and the flurry of activity. Here in Seneca Rocks, my home and everything around it is a haven. But I’m not escaping anything – well, maybe the wind gusts and the weather! I haven’t given anything up to move here, to live a greatly simplified life. God has blessed me with abundant riches from the smallest wild violet growing under a fence line to beautiful waterfalls cascading down over rock ledges.
Today is Earth Day. A day to reflect on how we can make less of an impact on our planet. I think we need to reexamine what we really need to be happy. With a bigger home and a car, I had to work harder to maintain that home and car. I commuted to work early and came home in rush hour traffic – to enjoy a sliver of time in a home that was more of a way station than a home. “Home” should be a place we truly live, not just rest at the end of the day. For as much time as a lot of folks in Northern Virginia spend at home, it seems to me they’d be better off with smaller residences that require less time and money to maintain. Why spend half of a weekend caring for a yard that you only enjoy on the weekend? Life is too short to waste on unnecessary tasks. We need to reevaluate what is necessary in our lives. What gives us true happiness? It may take a vacation away from the routine to figure it out.
Less is more. With less, I can concentrate on what it important to me. My relationship with God and how I see Him in my life each day is crucial. I want to be as close to nature as possible; it’s easier to draw closer to God when there are few obstacles in the way, things like heat and air conditioning, TV or music endlessly blaring at home or in a restaurant.
When I need something, I look for a solution that doesn’t involve spending money. For example, I needed a shelf above the washer and dryer. Here in the mountains, it’s not a five-minute drive to Home Depot or Lowe’s. But, I do have an old, tumbled-down barn and plenty of barn wood right next door! FarmerHoney has a planer, and we planed down a barn wood plank and cut it to size. Love it!
A few weekends ago, I hosted a last-minute reception following the funeral of FarmerHoney’s grandmother. I pulled items out of the freezer and from cupboard shelves and managed to create soups, cookies, and entrees to feed 24 people. In this little trailer! There was no time to travel 35 minutes to a grocery store, select food, travel back, and cook. Here in the mountains, I’ve learned to make do with what I have.
Here, when I get chilly, I put on extra layers of blankets or clothes before I turn on the heat. Here, I learn to pick ramps (a potent wild onion) and morel mushrooms, wild edible violets in purple and white. I live with the changes of each season, I’m learning to follow the rhythms of the year, to work with Nature and not against it. Less is more.
This Earth Day, draw closer to Nature wherever you may be. Open a window. Go for a walk. Seek out wildflowers and listen to the songs of the birds overhead. Recognize that God is in everything He created.
Do what you can to protect His creations. Recycle, reuse, repurpose. Really think about what is necessary in your life. Consider simplifying or downsizing – even FarmerHoney has been won over by the benefits of Less is More!
It’s a good concept for us to embrace, and it’s a healthier way of living for our planet.
Less is More!