I smell of campfire smoke. In shorts, old sweatshirt, and beat-up sandals, I reminisce deeply as my husband and I take the drive back home from a recent family gathering at my Mom’s. She lives in field-and-wooded fruit-belt country just a shadow south of Lake Erie. Much like the place where I grew up about 75 miles north of there.
Sliding my sandals off, I draw my legs up, rest my feet on the sun-warmed dash, and watch the late summer hills roll by. As the sun moves lower in the sky, we pass pre-harvest fields and meadows ripe with goldenrod, chicory, and milkweed. As a child, I would stand in similar fields and pull the milkweed pods from their stalks watching the sticky “milk” ooze lazily from the point of separation. Peeling the pods revealed long white silken threads tucked within a “cob” of compact seeds. Easily scattered, pulling at the seeds and throwing them into the summer breeze was a favored pastime.
We approach a young boy on his bike. Barefoot, shirtless, and dirty from hard summer play, he is peddling furiously against the last days of summer. I remember those days with a mix of pain and pleasure. With sad heart, preparing to say “good-bye” to running barefoot against cool, sweet grass and riding hard and full-tilt in all things outdoors. The smell of cut grass and summer fields, combined with my own sweat from outdoor work or play, is a mystical memory enhancer that somehow powerfully returns me to sitting with bare crossed legs in deep grass and feeling the gentle itch and tickle of the blades.
I believe in simple things.
For me, it’s important to recapture and relive those things that have brought me joy in the past. Sometimes the long ago past. Like… sun-warmed tomatoes full of ripe flavor from my childhood garden. Like the intoxicating warm smell of late summer. Like learning song-birds by sound through the gentle coaching of my mother.
The things that I remember with deepest pleasure are all simple joys. So, I ask, why don’t we seek out simple things more often? And, further, why do simple pleasures seem to be the most fulfilling not when we are experiencing them (“in the now”) but when we are remembering them? Memory enhances these joys somehow.
Much has been written about the goodness of “simple pleasures.” So why is it so difficult for many of us to pursue simplicity? Why do we connect on a deep level with simple things rather than complex ones? After millions of years of evolution, are we still wired to have simplicity resonate with our souls? If yes, then we are, at our heart, simple creatures. So why do we pursue complexity (intentionally and unintentionally), when it is simplicity that makes us happiest?
But, while I ponder this complex subject, I will continue to gather memories of simple things like gathering milkweed pods in my pocket – to be scattered in the wind another day.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.