The Joys of Small and Simple

When I lived in Canada, I owned a modest bungalow on a small patch of land in a neighbourhood in east Toronto. That bungalow was more than a house. It was my family's home. And it taught me a few things about the joys of small and of simple

In the spring of 2003, my father found an old reel mower at the dump near his home. The mower was still in good shape, so he took it home, cleaned it up, and gave it to me. Unlike my neighbours, who seemed to be enamoured with their electric and gasoline-powered mowers, I happily used that reel mower for almost eight years.

Early one Saturday morning, I was mowing my front lawn when someone passing by stopped and asked me Why are you using that instead of an electric or gas mower? Since it didn't sound like one of those Oh, you're a dinosaur! questions, I gave him my reasons: 1) the carbon footprint is minimal (just my exhaling), 2) it's quieter than an electric or gas mower, and 3) this mower is perfect for my small lawn. But my fourth answer really surprised him. And me.

I added that using the reel mower gives me a little time to think and to reflect on things. After he walked away, I (surprise, surprise) began to seriously think about what I'd just said. I don't think that many of us have enough time just sit back and casually reflect on ... well, on anything.

Even though I now live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world and enjoy a slower pace of life than I did in Canada, I know that I don't have enough time to reflect.

I've got all the usual stresses, and a couple of more. Most of my day is spent working and writing, with some time devoted to my wife and daughter. I don't think that I've had a relaxing weekend in several years — there are always piles of things to work through.

But the 15 or 20 minutes that I used to spend mowing my lawn gave me time to relax my mental muscles. There was nothing Zen about it, but I found that after mowing the lawn the old school way, my mind was a bit clearer.

I sometimes yearn for those moments ...