I met Brandi this past winter while in Salt Lake City attending the ALT Summit. Brandi is one of those people that from the moment you meet her, you know she is special. And yet, it takes getting to actually know her to discover why. There were so many moments – from when she began quoting Shakespeare when we were sitting around one evening, to when you found out that she was an incredible singer. It could have been her sense of humor that brought much laughter or her incredible style, grace, and elegance. And then there is her incredible kindness and generosity- blessing those she calls friend. She doesn’t talk about how incredibly smart she is, but just reading her beautiful writing make that abundantly clear. Brandi just might be the first real Renaissance woman that I have ever met – and she is definitely that. You can get to know Brandi yourself – at her fabulous website Not Your Average Ordinary. You will be glad you did.
There is nothing simple about a simple moment – several rewrites of this post have taught me that. It requires a convergence of elements, and a presence in the immediate moment we often are not apt to do. I noticed that the places I found simplicity always were tied to my senses:
First, light. The bright light of the sun directly creeping into a room in the early morning. The warmth of noon’s light on skin. The grey light that hovers in every corner of a city on a rainy day. But even the light has its nuances, the different ways it plays off of water and stone and smoke. When you start paying attention to light, you discover how powerful it is, how it can shift your moods slightly or significantly.
Next, scent. The air in Southern California smells different from the air in Wyoming. Each breeze tumbling over some part of the country has its own character. And it changes with the seasons too. In the spring, La Jolla smells of jasmine flowers; my grandmother’s home was always alive with the fragrance of lilacs. Autumns on the East Coast often smell like burning wood. Even the less-than-pleasant smells become powerful memory triggers: the sweat and heat of New York City subway cars in August, the crisp cold air in rural Virginia in the winter, the ocean water near Vancouver on an early summer morning. Lovers, family members, pets, home cooked meals…we’re constantly bombarded and surrounded by scents, simple and often unnoticed but so powerful.
Third, music. There is always music. Sometimes, there is even a musician or a set of them creating something together. But there is always music and sound. The whooshing sound of a waterfall. Crickets at night in the summer. A lonely hoot of an owl. Car engines passing and trains rushing by. Laughter from friends. A lover humming.
Finally, taste. The absolute simplicity of taste. One ingredient. Then two together. Then three. But when food is fresh from the earth, it needs no flare. Freshly picked wild strawberries have one of the simplest tastes, but beyond that simplicity, there’s more: the taste of the sunshine, of the fresh air, of the earth — all bound in a tiny red fruit. Even vanilla ice cream has layers — vanilla beans hint of their origin, the texture of the ice cream itself, even the taste of the cream used hints of what the cows ate. The simple act of eating, of truly tasting, of savoring, of discovering is a celebration in itself.
On the day I took this photo, several things came together at once: the light smell of the lilies of the valley, the colors of the magazine, the midday light, the stillness in my neighborhood as birds sang. The computer was on and I was working, but it was vastly different than the scene I was used to at work. There was nothing that one might deem “exciting” happening, but that moment filled me in ways that others have not. I was present and I was aware. And in discovering the simplicity and its complexities, I fell even more deeply in love with the world.