stuff and space and simplicity

It's been a busy "rest day" here at the farm, as I spent most of the day cleaning out and rearranging an old bedroom that was being used for storage.  The room was quite full, containing some of the left-behind belongings of two elderly sisters, who now reside in nursing homes.  I found boxes of useful sewing, crocheting, knitting, and crafting supplies, in addition to a couple lifetimes' worth of recipes, which I plan on perusing carefully!  While going through these things, I got to wondering about my own possessions, the life-stuff I surround myself with.  The books and books and magazines, the vases and candles, the hobby projects I start and often never finish . . . Our stuff documents how we pass the time, what we value, what we think is beautiful.  

Over the years, I've struggled to reduce the amount of stuff I own, in great part because we've been living in a small apartment in New York City.  We've only got two regular-size cabinets for storing food and plates, and only a couple of small closets; we simply don't have a lot of room for stuff, or shelf space to display knick-knacks. Whenever we visit friends or family for the first time, we "ooooh" and "aaaaahhh" at the closet space, built-in shelving, and kitchen cabinetry.  Dwell, a contemporary architecture magazine, with its layouts of modern homes, perfectly organized and beautiful, made me drool.  

But since I've been living here at Melrose Convent & Bluestone Farm mostly full-time, since August, I find that I need even less stuff than I thought.  I've got a few sets of farm clothes and a few good pants and shirts, but only about 1/4 of the clothes I have in the NYC apartment.  A few books and magazines.  Some warm slippers and boots and hats and gloves.  A travel bag of toiletries.  And my computer.  So I've come to find, after too many seasons of wanting a bigger apartment and more closets and more clothes and more stuff, that I am happier having even less.  I think that I'm coming to see that living simply is itself beautiful. . . I do think that it's easier to cultivate this perspective when I'm away from the city, where the pace is so intense, and there is so much to do, and so much to buy.  Here, I can go for many days without even picking up my wallet, or thinking, "You know, I could really use a . . . "

One of the benefits of cleaning out that storage room is I got to create a little meditation area in my living space, with a small table on which to put a candle and a bell.  (There had been an extra bed in my living area, which got moved to the storage room.)  Creating that bit of spaciousness, marking aside a spot for meditating feels like such a gift.  A spot intended for my spiritual growth, a present to myself.  At this moment in my life, more than any material thing could, having this space fills me up and makes me content.  I'm so very grateful to the Sisters here for sharing their lives with me, for giving me this space in which to work and rest and pray and grow and be.  

And in this vein of appreciating simplicity, I thought of sharing the following cooking idea with you.  I realized recently that mostly I don't use recipes, but just go by broad guidelines in my cooking.  So bear with me while I figure out what to call these things, for now "cooking idea" will have to do.

Sunny-side eggs in sauteed greensThis idea is based on a recipe I read in Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (which, if you haven't read, you really should!  It's beautiful and interesting, a great read.).  

Take some of your favorite leafy greens (spinach, kale, beet leaves), and saute them in olive oil with whatever spices or seasonings you like: garlic, red chili flakes, salsa, ginger, or soy sauce, for example.

Then, after a few minutes, when the greens are wilted, make little divots and crack an egg into each hole.  Let the eggs slowly cook on low heat; you can separate out each egg and its surrounding greens, and flip, if you like.  Serve alone or with some good crusty bread.  

Simple and delicious.