Broken Sunflowers

9

We ran away Saturday night. My wife and I.

In this time of coronavirus, travel, so much a part of our life, has not happened. We have been model citizens, hunkering down in our little blue miner’s house in Vermont, socializing mostly with the cats and each other.

Even now, when I sneak off to my favorite diner, I sit in a faraway corner inside the old train station turned restaurant while pretty much everyone else sits outside under the tents.

I have been blessed. My wife and I married just three years ago, a second marriage for both of us. A time like the one we live in today can strain a relationship. There is, after all, such a thing as too much togetherness. But that has not been the case for us. We’ve come to love the extra time together. The chance to talk off an on throughout our respective workdays.

But it was time. The walls were closing in. We needed to see new things. To snag a bit of normalcy, which for us, includes something new, something away.

We stayed in a hotel that I have to admit, went out of their way to keep us safe. I doubt I’ve ever been in a cleaner room. Public amenities where everyone in the place might have access, like ice machines and coffee in the lobby were shut off. Public means exposure.

It struck us all weekend how things have changed. Everything. We went to the Hancock Shaker Villiage in the Berkshires. It’s a  favorite place of ours. There were limits on how many people could be there. Limits on the numbers of people who could be in a building at one time. Many of the places we normally get to see, because they are small or confined, were closed off.

Still, it was good to see a different set of walls. Different landscapes.

My wife and I both love historic, restored places. I always have, even before those places took on a new resonance for me, in my own restoration. It was good, so good to simply capture the images and energy of these simple people who made such an impact on our national consciousness.

I could live in that kind of simplicity. The older I get, the more I realize that. I would gladly let go of a lot of the stuff in my life, for the simplicity. I can feel my heart still, feel my spirit calm when I go there. Everything they needed. Nothing else. Lots of empty space on the walls and in the rooms.

In a lot of my life (not so much my house, which is a warm cozy mix of our two lives and histories, but in the rest of it.), I have simplified and simplified. I have a routine that is simple. My faith has become both wider and deeper, because, I believe, it has become simpler. My work is in the process of being simplified, a thing forced at first by the virus, but now has become a goal, something to embrace.  My writing has become simpler. No need to write on everything in life, I have chosen a few topics and emotions that matter. No more.

It is a life less cluttered. Not for everyone. Healthy for me. Now and again, I hit a place where I am empty. At total peace.

I never had that before. My life was too cluttered.

It is not for everyone. People tell me all the time, “But I could never live without…. (fill in the blank.). People tell me all the time that their minds are too active, too unruly, too anxious, too full to live in the kind of simplicity I have come to treasure.

There is this thing that lives in the annals of internet psychology called the “fear of missing out.”. Most of us have it, I understand. I know I used to. There was always something else to do. Something else to experience. Something I might miss. Something I might screw up if I did not monitor every moment.

It was exhausting. I don’t know how I did it. I don’t know how the people in my life with all that stuff going on do it. I’d wear out.

Emotionally I’d wear out. I’d manage to get the work done, whatever the work was. But emotionally at the end of the day, I’d be flat drained.

I like going to bed now. It is a time of peace, not a time of exhaustion. It is a time of connection and conversation and simplicity. I sleep because my body is tired, not my mind and heart.

It was work getting here. Letting go, I learned, is harder than adding more. It took time and it takes even more work to keep life simple. I swear there is a natural tendency in our minds to complicate even the most simple things.

Visiting places like the Shaker Villiage, or the vast emptiness of the ocean, finding and capturing images of the simple things in life and home, coffee in the morning, a simple kiss in the middle of the day, all empower me and bring me more joy than I thought was possible until the past few years,

The Shaker Villiage has extensive gardens. Here and there throughout the gardens were these massive sunflowers. A week ago there had been some bad storms. Many of the sunflowers were bent and broken from the wind and torrential rains.

But here and there, some of them were rising back, fed by their simple diet of sun and soil, they took the storm’s water and began to grow anew, standing, once again tall. I smiled at them as I saw them. Simplicity has power.

That, I thought, is me. It can be all of us. I believe that.

Be well, travel wisely,

Tom

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