I don't know about you, but one of my great challenges is slowing down. Even if I sit on the sofa, complex knitting project in my lap, my mind is making lists of people, places, and things. Part of it is living in a city. Part of it is being self employed. And part of it is just too much multi-tasking!

And so, you may have noticed that when we headed up north to our little cottage (truly) I decided to vacate totally and not write.

Monday evening we drove home slowly, re-entering urban life after a month. I felt restored, refreshed, eager to get my office set up, to file away the paperwork I had accomplished as early as possible. And while it's great to be back, to wave hi to our wonderful neighbours, to collect the newspapers and mail from the garage, it's also great to look back at what makes a vacation.

My first husband and I spent some time discussing this last night. First, we live very simply up north. We try to minimize use of motorized vehicles (which in our case is boats) and our first transport choice is usually kayak, canoe or rowboat.

Second, we take on projects that make us feel great! We've been trying to let our woods breathe a little more, and clearing out juniper and some white pine and some cedar so the maples and oaks can get a better stronghold.

We've pulled juniper and pine out of a trench and filled it with soil and planted a vegetable garden, nestled down in crags of granite, producing lettuce, tomatoes, radishes, herbs, peas and beans. We weed it. We fill the humming bird feeders. We cut wood.We decide on a project and begin by sitting by the window or out on the rock reading our books. We take time to talk. And listen. We go on picnics. We invite friends for dinner.

Our great achievement this weekend was scrounging up all sorts of wood left over from a recent building project and actually creating storage space in a little closet we have. The closet is about 5 feet square and we wanted to be able to hoist bins of tools, supplies etc up on shelves instead of having to constantly move 12 bins to get at one. We worked away all day in the heat, measuring, drilling, creating the frame to support shelves. By day's end we had a closet with four full shelves, storage for 20 large bins! And we were very excited about this!

As we were reflecting on living simply, we laughed about how thrilled we are with our achievement, and how uninterested most people would be with this...simple shelves created from scrap.

Perhaps the true definition of relaxation is just that... doing stuff that matters to nobody else but makes a big difference to you.

What's best is working slowly, thinking about the results of snipping a branch, watering our vegetables against this summer's incessant heat, walking down and jumping in the water and towelling off and going back to the project at hand.

I've written in the past about an ambitious, longterm project that has been using my energy for a couple of years now. Using the kayak, I'm filling it with rocks, paddling over to a location and dropping them into the water. Ultimate goal is to create a breakwater since our dock gets major winds rocking its foundations. I figure this is at least a 20 year project. I think after two years I've gone a distance of about 4 feet... only 18 more to go! But, how wonderful to have a loose goal that I can keep on the back burner, on a rolling boil, to turn my attention to when I wish.

Living simply. I'd like to try to bring that back to urban life! I'll let you know...

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