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I was in a room filled with women on Thursday and the lady conducting the meeting told an impromptu story. She had a dear friend who kept a neat home: “it always looks liked a picture in a Home and Garden magazine.” One day this friend bought three plaques to hang in her laundry room—they each said “Simplify.” She decided to hang the painted boards above her washing machine, but it proved to be difficult. For an hour and a half she fidgeted with the placement and struggled with the hanging of them. Finally her husband came in and looked at her signs and said, “I think you missed the point.”

I have a bit of this woman in me. I tend to overdo. Instead of streamers for my granddaughter’s birthday party in two weeks, I bought fancy papers and cut out half circles and pennants that I’ll sew in rows on ribbon. Then I’ll add lettering and tiny birds that I cut out, other embellishments, and you get the picture. Sometimes I don’t know how to simplify.

And yet, the simple life appeals to me. Today I rode through quiet towns beaded along a back highway with names like Fairview and Mt. Pleasant. They were quiet communities that moved without the pace of traffic lights, theaters, restaurants or a Costco. Agriculture was predominant. I imagine the people living in rhythm with tilling, planting, watering, watching the sun shine, growing, and harvesting. A steady, unhurried life tied to the warmth of the soil between their toes.

The people of those towns know their neighbors, the postman, the grocer, and the Avon lady. Like many neighborhoods, they know who they can turn to when their basement floods or a baby is born or a heart is broken. But these people do not come and go with the rise and fall of the real estate market. Their roots grow deep, and their branches intertwine. Their grandpas plowed together and now lie side by side in one of the neat cemeteries lined with low stone walls. Small towns breathe out generations.

It’s good to take such a ride and think about the life along a back highway; one that provides things that don’t come to us with the swipe of a debit card or in stop and go traffic during the commute to work. Rather, those moments arrive when we take the time to plant with generosity, weed with forgiveness, and let the rain and the sunshine fall down. And sometimes, when we are blessed, the harvest is a friendship that lasts a lifetime.

And that is one of the best simple things of all.

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