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Column | Everyday Elegance

Alicia Woodward: The elegance of winter’s simplicity

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Alicia Woodward

Alicia Woodward

Just outside our upstairs bedroom window, the tops of trees stand like elegant steel sculptures against winter’s silver sky. My eyes trace the intricate, bare, black branches, and I’m inspired to simplify.

Based on the popularity of books and television shows on the subject, I know I’m not alone in my urge to simplify, nor am I the first to be motivated by nature. Isaac Newton wrote, “Nature is pleased with simplicity.” He was referring to mathematical principles and philosophical reasoning, not kitchen cabinets and sock drawers, but I think his point remains.

During his time at Walden Pond, Henry David Thoreau observed, “Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with nature herself.” Wouldn’t we all accept an invitation to more purity and ease?

Inspired by the winter landscape, I am beginning the new year by simplifying. Like beauty, simplicity is in the eye of the beholder, but maybe you can relate to my goal of tackling the following areas.

Physical possessions 

I’m reconsidering every item in every drawer, closet, shelf, box, cabinet, glove compartment, and secret nook and cranny. I’m keeping only things I love and that align with my idea of a simple, elegant life. Uncomfortable shoes, be gone!

Health and finances 

I don’t know about you, but during the winter months I tend to put such things on the back burner. I have experienced the relief of being on top of my game in these areas, and I’m not going to wait until spring to feel that way again.

Digital footprint 

Newton and Thoreau didn’t have to worry about this one, but it’s a struggle for me. Photographs, emails, documents, passwords, downloads and “the cloud” hang over my head. I hope to take control of my technology, before it changes again and this old dog has to learn more new tricks.

Activities and pursuits 

Just as we have limited space in our cupboards, we have limited space in our days. I’m letting go of vague dreams to travel the world or become a gourmet cook who is fluent in French, but I am fully committed to a small number of true passions.

Thoughts and emotions 

Sometimes intangible baggage prevents us from simplifying. Just like physical clutter, we have to let go of the stuff in our head and heart that keeps us from living our best life.

I hope you will join me in answering Thoreau’s call to simplify, simplify! If we get stuck, winter’s elegant inspiration is right outside the window in the cold clarity of sunshine, the peace of dormant fields, the freedom of geese in flight, and the beauty of a snowflake.

Alicia Woodward is a retired language arts teacher and empty-nester. She and her husband recently moved back to their hometown of Mt. Vernon. She writes a weekly blog called The Simple Swan. Visit her blog at www.thesimpleswan.com. Email her at Alicia@thesimpleswan.com.

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