“I am too old and sad to play, said the boy. I want a boat that will take me far away from here. Can you give me a boat? Cut down my trunk and make a boat, said the tree. Then you can sail away and be happy…”
-The Giving Tree
The month of May is dedicated to simplicity. It was supposed to be April, but I took a month long sabbatical and actually simplified, which meant just living simply, not writing about simple living. If I could have, I would have built a boat and sailed faw away. Instead, I picked fifty pounds of strawberries and eleven pounds of blueberries. I made ALOT of jam. I bought chickens and built a backyard coop. I wrote the first four chapters of my book. I counted a solid month without sarcasm in my marriage. Plain. Simple. Talk. So refreshing. I took a Disney cruise with my daughter. (So I did sail away, kind of) I created a volunteer program to collect extra fruit to feed the hungry. I built a website all by myself. I joined the board of a local charity that helps foster care children find forever homes. I got caught up on both kid’s annual scrapbooks. It is amazing how much time you find when you simplify.
Still, I managed to complicate things in my down time too. I became further estranged from my parents and siblings. I gained weight. I gave up caring. Okay, that’s not true. I gave up pretending to do anything about it except wallow in fat misery. I contemplated the future and allowed myself to be haunted by the past. I made sense of the world, than forgot what I figured out.
So I am trying it all over again. This time, I will revisit my absolute no list and remind myself of all the things I am not going to waste time on- like getting involved in other people’s drama. I will banish my other list, the never ending to- do list. Instead, I will focus on just two priorities- health and writing. I will remind myself at the store that I probably don’t need whatever it is I am about to mindlessly put in my cart or in my mouth. I will think about the waiter at lunch today, Jimmy. What would Jimmy do?
Jimmy was a little too tan, which made guessing his age tough. By the smile lines and grey hair, I am guessing late fifties. If Jimmy was a girl, his name would be Cathy. He has a gift for gab and was talking all about the sea to the table of tourists behind us. I couldn’t help but overhear that he lives on a sailboat. I was just thinking earlier this morning that living on a boat is probably what simplifying really looks like. I have a friend contemplating that plunge, but her kids are still in school. Maybe a weekend boat is a better idea. The water looks awfully cold.
So instead of eating my lunch while it was hot, I filled up on Jimmy’s food for thought. Jimmy’s story reminds me a lot of the boy in the Shel Silverstein book The Giving Tree. He got a divorce. He was burned out on a corporate job. He sold everything and bought a boat and sailed away. He lived in St. Thomas for ten years, just him and his iPod filled with 10,000 songs. There was no need for a car. There was no need for a slip in a marina. He had an anchor. Parking in the water is free. Some major repairs were necessary on the mast of his 38-foot Hunter, which required a trip back to the states. He has been back in Florida for a few years, waiting tables to pay for the $400 a month it costs to live in a marina with electricity. He is putting away some money for his daughter’s wedding, too. He takes the bus now. Ten years of walking made a car seem like just another thing that would tie him down. He likes being ready to lift the sails and see where the wind blows him. In the past, it has carried him off the coast of Argentina, where hundreds of dolphins swam alongside his boat.
“Not just for five minutes. It was like for an hour and a half. The motor wasn’t running. It was all sailing. I am convinced they were following the music I had blasting, reggae and rock.” Jimmy said.
He has seen a mother whale nurturing her calf, countless sunrises and some storms that would make an atheist find religion fast.
“Does it get lonely?” I wondered.
“Sure it does. But I could be lonely in a house too.” Jimmy replied as he refilled my iced tea.
“What about your stuff? You don’t have much room?”
“I have a set of golf clubs on board. I have a laptop. I have what I need.”
Maybe it won't be selling it all and sailing away, but if I can grasp Jimmy's concept of 'have what I need', maybe I wont have to repeat simplicity again in June.
What does simplifying look like to you?
For today’s “Sky’s the Limit” on what you can learn: Shel Silverstein may best known as the author of children’s classics like The Giving Tree, but did you know he was also the leading cartoonist for Playboy magazine in the 1950’s and 60’s. His collection of travelogues for Playboy were later turned into a book called Around the World, which was published in 2007. The Chicago native also had a successful run as a singer, songwriter and playwright. Before he started getting published, he made ends meet by selling hot dogs at Cubs' games.