Jan and I just returned from our vacation up in Washington state. We have a tiny cabin on a tiny island far away from everything. Now I know many people dream of a “simple life” far from the maddening crowd. A place where you don’t have to shave and the height of fashion is an old woolen shirt and a pair of work boots. Center Island is just that.
To get to the island you must drive almost to the Canadian border and then hire a boat to take you to the island. Our little property is a half-mile walk to the other side of the island. I emphasize walk because there are no private motor vehicles (although the community owns a fire engine, a tractor and an old pick-up truck).
The good news was, it was too cold for bugs and a tiny space heater warmed our cabin nicely. (The outhouse was another matter.) It rained two days out of three and Jan broke her foot the day before we left for the island. Despite her injury, she baked bread, cornbread muffins and homemade pizza. (She whipped up a cake from bits of leftover flour, canned peaches, and some walnuts, but I’m not supposed to tell anyone about that.) I sat on the porch (in the rain) and did the dishes.
So what did I learn sitting under the giant cedars and Douglas firs? I discovered the answer to the search for simplicity isn’t to be found on a boat or in a cabin in the woods. The answer to the search for simplicity can be discovered in the observation of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6:22, 23) During one of my early Bible studies, shortly after we arrived on the island, I discovered the phrase “if your eye is healthy,” in Greek, literally means “if your eye is single.” In other words, the key to simplicity is “singleness of vision” and what I discovered in my daily walks around the island is, it is too easy to become distracted. As I would walk I could easily become lost in my thoughts and when that happened I didn’t see the world around me. I didn’t notice the doe and her fawns. I didn’t see the beautiful little mushrooms growing in the forest or the eagles soaring overhead. It took a great deal of energy to focus my attention and not become distracted by thoughts of the past (“if only!”) or worries about the future (“what if?”).
I’m glad to be home. For awhile there I was afraid moss was growing on my back and I think I was actually beginning to develop webs between my toes, but the one lesson I want to cling to is to simplify my life by focusing on right now.