Archives for category: Simple Living









There is very little doubt in my mind that one of the greatest sources of joy in my life at the moment is Long Point Beach.  Every morning at around 7, I can be found alternately strolling or striding along its shore, accompanied by my faithful hound Maz.  I come for the scenery, Maz prefers the dead fish.  End result:  sheer happiness for both.
This morning, while driving along the causeway leading to the beach, I was startled to see a huge swarm of small black birds filling the sky above me.  From the point just above my head to one above hte marsh far in the distance, thousands of these feathered friends were beginning their exodus to warmer climes, their wings pumping madly in the chill of the morning sky.  There was no mid-air ballet today, no time for any such frivolity.  They had somewhere to go, and there were getting to it.

But the experience of all of those small bodies, those pulsating wings, dominating the heavens made me stop my car in the middle of the road and gaze upward in abject awe.

The driving force of thousands of palpitating hearts, all beating as one, created a moving mosaic of black wing against the light grey morning sky, and I was mesmerized.  But more than that.  For a few fleeting moments, I was a part of it, almost present there with them in the heavens, wings beating, core pounding, spirit lifting up and away into the promise of bluer skies, balmier breezes and tasty caterpillars only just contemplating the cocoon.

I drive that causeway almost every daybreak, and usually I give thanks for the simple beauty of the natural landscape.  But this morning … this morning was a moment of wonder in an ordinary day, and it felt like a miracle.

Tomorrow, I’ll once again rise at dawn to make the same pre-breakfast trek on those enervating sands.  Will there be another miracle?  Is there a miracle every single day, if I open myself to it?
I think there may be.  And I will be watching.


I wish I could say that this elegant creature with the gorgeous gams was me, but it is actually my friend, Cynthia, photographed by her husband, James. She and Maz certainly win the contest for lithe beauty, don’t they?

As you know, I am most prone to revelation when walking on my beautiful beach in Long Point.  I call it my beach because, now that the visitors have vacated the premises for another year, this stretch of sand is solitary in its beauty, and as I stride along its length, I laugh with the universe in gratitude for this oasis which I own without ever having had to pay a cent towards a mortgage.

Yesterday, the air was filled with the cacophonous caws of a myriad of birds — they looked like starlings — perching in the ancient trees just up from the water’s edge.  They were making a tremendous racket, and every ten seconds or so, they would suddenly swarm from one tree to another nearby, spending several moments mid-air:  fleetly flitting up and down, east and west, all in the most delightful exhibition of synchronized flying available to the human eye.

There have been times on the beach when perhaps a dozen hawks have soared above my head with what seems a perilously narrow margin of clearance, and the tantalizing mixture of wonder and fear at the proximity of these large birds of prey has been exhilarating, to say the least.

But these starlings, if that’s what they were, provided a mystery, and an inspiration.

I suppose I could have cast myself as Tippi Hedren in Hitchcock’s classic film, and seen danger, but instead, I chose to perceive the perfect unity of the birds, which must have numbered in the many hundreds.

There are times when, like lemmings, we simply follow our fellows into oblivion.  We allow the pundits of agri-business and pharma-business and those who claim that climate change is all nonsense to seduce us into a zombie-like acceptance of the ever worsening status quo without really thinking for ourselves.

But then, there are other times when our membership in a larger tribe reflects a gathering energy created by individuals linked by similar values and a common purpose, and a releasing of that energy into the world.

The flock has more power than it realizes.  Are you concerned about the dangers of GMOs  — genetically modified corn and soybeans, for example?  You have the power to subvert this system by refusing to buy the many products which contain them.  Disturbed by the growing reports of potential links between overuse of vaccinations and a variety of ailments?  Through the miracle of the internet you have the power to research this subject and make an informed choice regarding what is right for you and your family.  Unhappy with the rumblings of ‘peak oil’ and ‘peak water’ as well as the menace of climate change always there lurking behind the sunshine?  You can choose to be part of the solution or part of the problem.

The tribe of those who are flocking together with the common goal of simple, yet abundant, living; a sustainable lifestyle; and a return to proper stewardship of this planet is growing.  We are beginning to swarm from tree to tree, uttering a raucous invitation to join us., and there is little time to waste.

You have the choice to stay on the ground, or to spread your wings.  The tribe is waiting for you, here in the air.

It has been as hot as Hades here on Ontario’s South Coast this past week, and I have been dehydrating.

But just for variety, I’ve also been canning.  Freezing, I’ll leave for some future date when I’m not tempted to crawl inside that frosty space and curl up into a cool little ball!

You see, it is plum season chez moi, and the ancient tree in my backyard orchard, perhaps anticipating its own demise, has put out a bumper crop of dangling orbs of sweet delight.

And because it would seem to me a crime to allow this yield to rot, I’ve been delivering bags of  golden bounty to friends and neighbours, whilst attempting to preserve as much as possible for my own consumption during the fruitless winter months to come.

This action has a special significance this year, as I believe it will be the tree’s last summer.

My lovely plum is infected with an insidious disease called Black Knot: for those of you not arborially inclined, it’s caused by a fungus and is a bit like tree leprosy.  I had been keeping it at bay through annual applications of sulfur spray, but got busy last year, what with the thesis and all, and now it’s running rampant amongst the branches.

This is, after all, a very old tree, and I am told by those in the know on such matters that one should never allow a fruit tree to outstay its welcome.

However, this particular plum tree bears special fruit for me in terms of the memories it brings of my relocation here to the coast of Lake Erie.   But I must backtrack just a little …

Over a decade ago, I was living in a very pleasant apartment in Toronto, feeling that something was missing from my life.  At a gathering of friends, the question somehow arose as to what we each would do if we learned we had only six months to live  The answer came easily to me.

“I think I’d move to the country,” I said.  “I’d slow down and enjoy life more.  I’d drink my morning coffee looking out on a green field.  I’d start a garden.  I’d cook beautiful, healthy meals with fresh, colourful fruit and veg.  And I’d always savour a glass of wine while I was cooking.  When the day got long, I’d take a slow, silent walk in the moonlight.  And finally I’d sink into bed, knowing I was living the life I most wanted to live.”

“Yeah, ‘ I reflected.  “That’s what I’d do .”

Almost immediately, it was as if my friends had disappeared and I was alone in the room.  And then, my spiritual doppelganger, some wiser version of myself, sprang out from within my own frame, stood solidly in front of me, looking me squarely in the eye, and demanded, “So why do you have to be DYING to do that?”

It was an epiphanic moment.  I immediately took steps to bring that envisioned life into being, voraciously perusing real estate listings, and eventually touring an old two storey brick house in a small lakeside town.  My prospective home was very much in need of loving restoration, but it had decent bones, plus an interesting history.  And in the large backyard was an orchard … an ancient, overgrown orchard .. one that reminded me of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and fireflies and fairies.  I knew at once that the house was calling out to me to make it my own.

On the day the house was legally mine, I drove to the realtor’s office to pick up the key.  As I grasped it in eager hands and headed for the door, he called out to me:  “Make sure you go into the backyard, because that plum tree of yours is full of plums!”

I raced to the house and sprang into the back:  he was right!  The tree was heavy-laden with succulent golden-red plums, fairly dripping with them.  I gathered a basket full, and took them to rehearsal that night, where I practically demanded that my fellow cast members join me in the revelry of plum sweetness.  It seemed almost miraculous … that ambrosial fruit springing from the old tree in the ancient orchard of my neglected century home.

Now, over ten years later … ten years of morning coffee gazing at my orchard, and cool moonlit walks with canine companions … I’m poised to leave this place, whenever a buyer or a teaching position beckons.  And the tree’s life is coming to an end.  It seems fitting, but also sad in that poignant, circle of life kind of way.

So I honour my backyard companion this year by not wasting a single one of her children; by ensuring that all the fruit is enjoyed.

Adieu, sweet plum.  If neither one of us is here next summer, know that you will always have a special place in my heart.

And I’m saving a few of your seeds, my graceful beauty, in the hopes that some day soon, your yet unborn children will also delight the world each and every July with those glowing orbs of delight.

If you’ve been reading from the beginning of this blog, you’ll remember that I’m selling my house, and that my recent escapade with bolting tenants left me shy of furniture to stage it properly.

It only made sense, therefore, to seek out a few appropriate pieces to augment my current supply, and to do this, I browsed my favourite furniture store, The Side of the Road.

Oh, sorry … did I capitalize that?  I sometimes do, because it makes it feel more quaint and charming.  Kind of like when I call Value Village, Boutique VeeVee.  But what I am in fact referring to is … the side … of … the road.

This store has enormous appeal since it satisfies one of the enduring obsessions of my life:  keeping stuff out of landfill.  I don’t know exactly what that says about me but … there you are.

So imagine my joy when, walking on Long Point with my faithful hound Maserati, I found a wide, low dresser with many drawers, translating to lots of storage, which would fit perfectly in the living room below a picture window.  It was at the very side of the road, the incontrovertible signal that, “This stuff is free for the taking!”

Excitedly, I raced home, hooked the trailer up to the car, and returned to the scene of this unexpected opportunity. Yes!  It was still there, and with it, an accompanying beveled mirror of substantial size, in perfect condition.  With the strength of a longshoreman, I hoisted both into my trailer and was off.  I don’t need the mirror at the moment, but when I eventually downsize further, I’ll want to find a new home for this jewel of a dresser, and the mirror might be needed.  Also, a perfect 3’X4′ mirror just shouldn’t go into landfill — that would be sickening — so on the way to the house, I dropped it at the church for safekeeping.

Once home, I ascertained that the dresser was a bit too tall for the window sill, so speedily cut three inches off each leg with a handsaw.  The top was quite scratched, but not beyond  redemption.  In the end, I decided to paint it a light creamy yellow, which I did in short order.

The painting completed, I surveyed my new dresser.  It looked … very serene.  Too serene.  Never one to miss out on the opportunity for a creative endeavour, I grabbed some old paint and, calling forth my inner Jackson Pollock, went to town on that dresser top.

First, I watered down some rust coloured paint, and with a cloth, dabbed a cloudy wash of colour over the base coat.  After it dried, I seized some dark green, and applying small amounts of paint to an old brush, began pouncing the colour onto the surface in a highly abstract manner.  Next came just a bit of white, then a more pronounced version of the rust.  At last, my creation was finished, and I stood back, gazing at it with satisfaction.

Now, the wonderful thing about this kind of re-purposing adventure is that you literally can’t go wrong.  Did you overdo it on one of the colours?  Dampen a rag and grab some paper towels, then wet and blot to your heart’s content.  Still not satisfied with the result?  Start all over with your base coat and it’s a whole new canvas.  Frustrated, hot under the collar because it just doesn’t live up to your Debbie Travis expectations?  Drop the whole kit and caboodle back at the side of the road where you found it, and you’re none the poorer.

But usually, you end up with something one-of-a-kind and interesting and uniquely your own creation, and you’re that much the richer for the journey taken.

The motivational writers of our day often speak to the abundance that is available in life:  that you can manifest anything you want, including palatial homes, luxury automobiles and vacation properties in sun-drenched locales.  For me, abundance is much simpler than this.  It’s the chance to live as sustainably as possible, and, in an attempt to leave a shallow footprint, to reclaim what others discard, thus helping both myself and the earth in the process.

This isn’t necessarily new age dogma:  my grandfather, an early farmer in Grey-Bruce County, believed that waste was the greatest sacrilege against God.  I often think of him when I’m in the midst of a major re-purpose.

And never forget, anyone can throw money at a problem,  But it takes a really creative and imaginative mind to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

I live in an abundance of my own making, one which stretches me and fulfills me and pleases me.

I invite you to join me there.

It often surprises me how little it takes to make me happy.

On April 1st, after my tenants made their ill-timed, not to mention illegal, departure, I moved back into my home in that small lakeside village, and began to stage it for sale.  At this moment, I’m sitting in the family room which overlooks the back yard, and I am feeling profoundly content.

This view is one which, in all weather, brings a sense of peace and joy into my life.  There’s a little backyard orchard there … five apple trees, a plum, a crab-apple, a cherry … and they are beginning to blossom with the heady abandon that only nature can fully inhabit.  The air bears the faint perfume of their efforts, and the birds have returned, bringing with them a heavenly symphony of chirps, tweets, chortles and ecstatic cries.  I have the windows open despite the morning chill to enjoy their efforts.

How could this fail to bring joy to one’s heart?

But there are other experiences that have brought me pause and made me consider the nature of human happiness.

When I moved to the church five months ago, I paid a considerable sum to several burly men to transport my furniture and other moveables the short distance between the two properties.  I was damned if I was going to encounter that enormous outlay of cash again just to return to where I’d started, so since the first of the month, I’ve been moving slowly, a bit at a time.  Because of this, I’ve been sleeping on an air mattress, supplemented by an assortment of quilts and comforters in an attempt to achieve something akin to moderate softness.  It hasn’t been awful, but neither has it been particularly comfortable.  It’s been like camping within one’s own home.

On Wednesday, I was able to secure the necessary labour to move my bed back to its former place, and that night, I sank into its pillow-topped softness with a joy near to bliss.  Oh, the perfection of a good bed, of smooth sheets that caress one’s body tenderly.  I have never had a problem wearing second hand clothing, I actually prefer previously owned furniture, but nothing on this earth will ever make me scrimp on the quality of my bed linens!

In times past, I have pulled the covers up around me at night, then nestled into my pillow with the luxurious belief that I was the luckiest woman in the world.  And Wednesday night, as well as every night since, my heart has echoed that sentiment.

A natural view, a soft bed, a good picture or two on the walls … this is all I need to transport me into contentment.  Add a cup of java brewed from a dark roasted, organic bean and I’m in heaven.  Add fulfilling work and I’m literally on Cloud 9.

In this time of transition, I remind myself that there’s nothing to fear.  As long as I have these few simple things, happiness will be within my grasp.  I have only to allow it into my heart.

Despite the convoluted nature of my personality, the intricate knots maintaining a stranglehold on my emotional baggage, I am at heart a simple woman.  And happy to be so.

And what about you?  What do you need to be happy?