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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

When you have simple tastes, the ordinary can be extraordinary!

I was pulling up the violets that had overtaken a footpath in the garden when I found the prettiest white rock. It looked like alabaster. The moment overtook me as I admired the creamy beauty of this solid white stone. It was just a moment, and to any one else, this might just be a rock. But because I find myself satisfied with the simple beauty of nature, I perceived this ordinary rock as extraordinary.

I think we are all born with simple taste. Have you ever watched a small child who has discovered an earthworm wriggling in the dirt? Child-like fascination with the natural world is corrupted by our culture as we get older. However, I believe we can encourage our tastes to appreciate the ordinary once again.

Here are 12 suggestions for getting back onto the path of simple tastes.

1) spend the day with a toddler -- play on their level, go for a walk and let them lead, giggle when they giggle

2) plant a seed -- watching a plant grow from a seed fosters my admiration for creation's perfect plan

3) watch the sun set from beginning to end -- so magnificent, yet such a simple pleasure

4) have breakfast early in the morning outdoors, alone, and listen to birdsong as you sip your coffee

5) volunteer in some capacity working with shelter animals, or with people who are less fortunate than you, either in their health or in their finances. Gratitude has a way of bringing us back to what is important.

6) give something up for a month or two. Giving up refined sugar causes me to really taste the sweetness in fruit. Having a no-spend month (except food and cleaning/paper supplies) forces me to appreciate the things I already own and experiences I can make for free. Give up social media for a month and you may find the simple pleasure of in-person conversations. 

7) read pioneer stories or stories from the Great Depression. When discretionary income was practically non-existent, folks found delight in everyday activities.

8) visit an elderly neighbor or relative and try to forget about the other errands you need to run. Can't do in-person visits right now? Visit by phone. Like Depression stories, a chat with one of our elders often puts life into perspective.

9) bring something from nature indoors to admire, such as a pebble, pinecone, seashell, twig, leaf, or blossom. I frequently pick up little treasures from my walks and set them at my place at the table to enjoy for a few days.

10) change the sheets on your bed and go to bed early. There's nothing so delicious as slipping between perfectly crisp and clean sheets at the end of the day.

11) plan a weekend retreat. Go camping or stay in a cabin. The point is forced disconnection from technology. 

12) visit a working farm and see first hand where real food comes from. Years ago, I was privileged with the opportunity to milk a goat and feed chickens. The experience was hilariously fun. But it was also very educational.

These suggestions feature a few things in common. Many either encourage encounters with nature or time spent with other people, in-person. I believe that humans are hard-wired to be both social and part of creation. For myself, I've found that expensive luxuries are often psychological replacements for the relationships that I crave deep-down.

Training yourself toward simple tastes is in the doing. The more you partake in simple moments, the more enjoyment you find in these activities. 


  1. An excellent list of suggestions, Lili. I find I do most of them except, I've never given up social media or sugar for a whole month. Cut back, yes, but none, no. What recharges me the most is time with the outdoors. Now that I think about it, I have several nature collections--rocks, bird nests, pressed wild flowers, pictures on insects, to name a few. When we moved, I gave some of these to a nature center, but I'm slowly building them up again.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      Your nature collections sound really interesting. Can you look at a bird nest and know which type of bird made it? I'm sure the nature center appreciated your donation.

    2. I have learned to identify several types over the years. I never removed a nest from where it was built, but the wind blew them down sometimes. Actually, it's illegal to remove a songbird's nest during mating season.

  2. Which books/ websites do you recommend for pioneer stories or depression era stories? Thank you.

    1. Hi Farhana,
      The NPR's website has a bunch of people's stories from the Great Depression. Here's one page:
      And here's another page from CS Monitor:
      And one more article on CNN:

      Also, have you watched the youtube series with Clara? "Great Depression Cooking"
      Here's the link to the youtube channel:
      Clara has since passed away. Her video recipes included lots of commentary on living during the Depression.

      For pioneer stories, any novels depicting the period when Americans were moving west over the plains. "Let the Hurricane Roar" aka "Young Pioneers" by Rose Wilder Lane gives a more adult look at prairie life than her mother's book series. Set a little earlier, during the expansion into the Ohio River Valley is a trilogy by Conrad Richter, "The Trees", "The Fields", and "The Town". These are fictionalized versions set in the very late 18th century to early 19th century.

      Hope this list gets you started!

  3. I'll try this again. I couldn't post a comment earlier today--I know that sometimes that's a problem you have run into, Lili.

    Spending time outside, whether for a short walk or for a camping trip for several days, lifts my spirits in a way that few things can. I remember thinking, when I moved to west Michigan and could go to the beach at Lake Michigan frequently, that despite all of our modern distractions, one thing that still resonates with people is a day at the beach.

    I also wanted to add that even after many years of doing patient care, I still find that being around my patients helps me be appreciative of all that I have--you'd think that by now I would have a good sense of perspective but these frequent reminders are good for me.

    1. Hi Kris,
      How frustrating! And that just happened to me again earlier, too. I'm glad your comment went through this time.

      I think your career puts you in a unique situation to appreciate just being able to use your physical self for daily tasks. Being well and feeling whole is such a blessing.


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