Simple Gifts

The other day, listening to my never-ending loop of Christmas music, I found I was humming one song over and over in my head. A beautiful, simple piece by Yo-Yo Ma and Allison Krauss. I stopped and really listened to the words.

Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free

‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be

And when we find ourselves in the place that is right

‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight

When true simplicity is gained

To bow and to bend we will not be ashamed

To turn, turn will be our delight

‘Til by turning, turning we come round right.

I have spent the last year, “turning, turning and coming down to where I ought to be.” I have found true simplicity and joy in my horses, my kayak, my friends, my bees and nature. Every day I have worked to see the simple beauty in my environment. I have shed the trappings that seemed so important to define who I was and what I had accomplished. I wrung out the fabric of my daily existence and found I was not lacking; in fact, that I was richer for reducing the stress caused by keeping up and striving to get ahead.

Now, as I bend and bow to what I have, versus what I thought I needed, I am not ashamed to say, I love having less, less drive to get more stuff, and more simple delights.  I have learned to stop and really listen to the rhythms of life around me. Less planning has meant more spontaneous adventures; less worry over things I can not change has brought me more peace. An important part of this lesson has been to let go of people I thought I could help, people who stew in their own crisis and misery. Now I smile at strangers, reach out to those who were invisible, and what comes back to me is the simple pleasure of connection.

This takes unlearning patterns of behavior that are so ingrained I didn’t even recognize them at first. It means taking a hard look at who I am and who I want to be. I have slowly reduced the material things I thought made me comfortable, only to find there was no lack of contentment when they are gone. The recipe involves taking one ingredient, one small facet of your day and examining its importance. If tragedy struck, would that thing or habit serve any purpose in rebuilding or sustaining you?

I am dismantling my life, and in doing so, finding joy in the simplicity.

DSC_5956As we wind down this year, my wish for all of you is the gift of simplicity and freedom.

10 thoughts on “Simple Gifts

  1. Wonderful sentiment Martha! So many people never truly learn to appreciated what they have, it has become a world of more, more, more. The worst part of that trap is the more you get, the more you want!. The older I get, the more the intangibles are important to me, time with family and friends, the love of my dog and the simply joy of sharing a good meal. May your new year be the best ever for the new YOU!

    • Thank you! As hard as it is to “downsize” my life, I know it is also providing freedom, and I never would have believed that two years ago. Being allowed to connect every day with other creative people is such joy.

  2. A bit of an aside I suppose but I’m compelled to mention that it’s an old Shaker Hymn written in 1848 by “Elder Joseph” – often used by the Shakers as a work song. There aren’t many Shakers left but the song resurfaces periodically in both popular and semi-classical motifs. It was one of several traditional American folk melodies that Aaron Copeland adapted for his compositions. Bonaparte’s Retreat is another one – from a Library of Congress recording of Luther Strong.

    I completely agree it’s a song worth knowing, remembering and sing from time to time – even if silently to yourself. The Shakers were/are definitely on to something but the religion had/has one particular doctrine that makes it difficult to perpetuate.


    • Hi Paul, thank you for all this wonderful background. Now the song means even more to me. Allison’s voice with Yo-Yo’s cello is so calming. I will look for the other versions as well. Happy Holidays!

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