I am obsessed with the pursuit of simplicity. I love simple meals, advanced planning and an empty inbox. I just re-tidied my home, Marie Kondo-style. The idea of a very simple life has me utterly captivated. Yet despite my efforts and preoccupation, the older I get, the harder this seems to achieve.
I know why I crave it. Life is complicated, what with the frustrating traffic and the cost of living and budgets and stock markets and the challenges of relationships and the many things I ought to do to prepare wisely for the rest of my life, not to mention the lives of my future children. Every time I read the news, I’m aware of an increasing number of dangers and diseases that could strike at any moment, and the more people I love (I know, I know, lucky me!), the greater my worries.
(A quick aside: if you can relate to these statements, give this great exercise a try.)
I imagine that if I achieved a life with no clutter, less stuff, dust-free floors, fewer to-dos on my list, highly organized files in paper form and on my computer and even up there in the cloud, dang it!, an ever-empty inbox and so on and so forth, my head would be clearer. Life wouldn’t feel so weighty. I could relax! I think to myself that if I could just manage to take care of this project, or that one, or if I got rid of a few more shirts I don’t really need, then life would feel simpler. But it doesn’t work that way. When you reduce and simplify and clear away the clutter, there is always more beneath, or more to take its place. The task is endless. We can see and imagine the many things that could be done, but we cannot do it all.
All this, of course, is because life isn’t simple. Things in this broken up world are not as they should be, and my extremely human attempts at trying to reverse that are just not going to work. And frankly, it’s also true that the complexity is the good stuff. It’s what makes us human. It’s what matters. My pastor said recently, wisely, that when everything is going well, it’s boring. When life is just humming along, when the plot is flat, it feels pretty great, but it’s not that interesting. And the same goes for our homes and our task lists and our sinks full of dishes and all the rest of it.
So will keep up the KonMari Method. I’ll keep organizing things around the apartment, because there’s got to be a better way to arrange my pantry and store my books. I will try to own less. But I will also work on being more okay with the fact that life is complicated, and that isn’t going to change, and it’s actually alright. I have heard that having a child speeds up the process of accepting this reality, but as I am not yet ready for that particular shortcut, I turn instead to simple food, which I find very helpful and also a much smaller commitment. If you, too, are looking for glimmers of simplicity, I give you a perfectly straightforward, terrifically forgiving, crunchy and delicious little recipe that’s perfect for these hot August days.
Cucumber, Feta & Mint Salad
An amazing trifecta! And, lucky for our hungry bellies, this is about as easy as cooking gets, cool and crunchy and utterly perfect for those summer days when you’d rather sip rosé on the porch than swelter in a hot kitchen. This is the outline I usually follow, but feel free to swap and adjust to fit your preferences and the contents of your pantry. Delicious additions might include avocado, other herbs, sliced green onions, crunchy lettuce or tomato. Substitute lemon juice or white wine vinegar for the red wine variety if that’s what you have on hand. Add red pepper flakes if you want a kick of heat. You get the idea.
This salad is great as a side but also works wonderfully as an appetizer, with crackers for scooping or garlic-rubbed toast beneath.
1 – 2 cucumbers, cut into small wedges
Block of good, salty Feta cheese (look for one made of sheep’s milk, or a combination of sheep and goat’s milk), cubed
Extra-virgin olive oil
Red wine vinegar
Freshly cracked black pepper
Small bunch of fresh mint, large leaves torn
Gently toss the cucumber and Feta cheese together to combine. Drizzle the ingredients generously with olive oil and give them a good splash of red wine vinegar. Toss again. Add salt and pepper to taste, then add most of the mint, reserving a few leaves for garnish. Toss one more time, taking care so that the mint isn’t bruised. Finish with more cracked pepper and the remaining mint.