A loon's plaintive cry echoes across the water as I settle into my campsite. For more than a week, I've been backpacking alone on this wilderness island in Lake Superior, and my heart and spirit are calmer. I have only what I can carry. Each day has brought with it only the simplest of decisions: How many miles to hike? Should I spend the next hour watching the water and its pageant of moose, osprey, and ducks? Or should I fix some Ramen noodles for dinner on my pocket-sized camp stove?
If only life back home in the Chicago suburbs were so simple. Most days, I'm juggling work deadlines, my husband's travel schedule, the assorted needs of family members, and a list of church and volunteer activities. All good things in themselves. But not simple.
Where Simplicity Begins
Simplicity is big business. Stores are devoted to helping me find it; consultants want me to hire them to divulge the secret. Much of the advice on living simply is "here's what to buy." But simplicity as found in clear plastic organizers, a new, easier hairstyle, or a streamlined wardrobe hasn't cut it for me.
I used to believe simplicity might be discovered in a different location. Moving out of the city to a rural area, where the ideal of the simple life has been polished to a fine halo.
An article in the early '90s extolled the lives of a young couple who, desperate to give their children and themselves a simpler life, moved to the wilds of British Columbia. There they chopped wood for cooking and heating, dug a well for drinking water, and grew all their own produce. No television, no distractions, no preoccupations with material acquisitions. Surely the simple life was theirs. I envied them.1