Discovering Simple

Julie Grinstead


Today I scrubbed my kitchen floor on my hands and knees. Maybe some people still do this for all I know, but I am more of the swish-a-mop around sort of person. There were problems with my mop and sponge-head contraption this morning, so I opted for scrubbing rather than let it go any longer. This gave me some time to think.

T his problem, as with so many little problems in life, could have been resolved by loading the kids in the car, burning some gas, and running into the store for a new mop head. But I have been on the trail of "simple" lately, and that did not seem like the simple solution. The simple solution seemed to be just to make do. With my head in a bucket of pine scented cleaner and dirty water I thought about options. There are places in the world where people don't just run to the store for whatever they need. People everywhere find themselves in circumstances that don't allow them to buy something to fix every little situation. They just make do. "Simple", in my world, has always meant the quick fix, the fast food, the prepackaged solution, money versus time, fossil fuel instead of personal energy. "Simple" has rarely meant the solution with the least impact on the world or on my sense of well being.

I thought about a book my kids have that says, "You have a brain, use it!" I have a brain, and I was using it, at that moment, to perform the menial task of scrubbing a floor. Should I have been using it, at that moment, to create something, to read something, to write something? Thoreau wrote, "Not till we are lost, in other words, not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves..." Is the simple life found through losing my kitchen floor all together? Or is it found through the simplicity of being down on my knees in the water, getting close to the world in a very menial, dirty way?

I've been reading a lot about simple. That is my goal. To live a sustainable, joyful life, leaving only footprints, as the saying goes. Part of simple, for me, is dropping my endless worries of the past and my endless fears of the future, and living, simply, in this time and space. I was reading an article recently in which a man described his pilgrimage to a religious shrine in Spain. Walking the entire way, he writes, "I begin to feel something new. I am not passing /through/ space, as one does in a car or airplane. This is a radically different sensation. Here, with each step, I am always in place, in some place, going to the next place, an inch or a foot farther on."

This, I realize, is part of the definition of "simple" that I seek. This is something I have always sought, and felt, on my hikes into the quiet woods -- the sense of being in place, of living in that moment, and being joyfully alive. Or dealing, in a simple, healthy, intelligent way with not being joyful some moments.

And so, my floor got clean, my hands dirty, my head clear. Life, or this very moment in it, seems very simple.

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