My husband jokes that every time he stops by the house for a refill of iced jasmine tea, he finds me either hanging out wash on the line behind the house or kneading bread dough like a good Central American doña.
While it is not exactly true, he is right. We slip into a simpler life here, a slower pace with more labor intensive tasks, out of necessity, to take advantage of the benefits of abundant sunshine and live more responsibly in our environment.
We don't need a dryer, though it does take considerably longer to hang clothes than simply flipping a sopping pile into another machine and pushing a button.
I don't have to bake bagels or bread here in the land of fluffy Bimbo bread, where there are occasionally overpriced, imported Lender's bagels in the freezer section of the supermercado in Utila Town. And though I sell some of my bagels to the local restaurant, we could live without bagels in general. Yet there is something pleasant about kneading the dough, putting it out on the back porch to rise, boiling the water and shaping the bagels.
There is something meditative about hanging each item of clothing out on the zigzag of clothesline. I think of the people who wear these sun-bleached beach clothes, and somehow a chore becomes an act of love.
And yet I know, having transitioned between my two lives last winter (documented previously in Ten Take Home Lessons from La Vida Tranquila) that the disparity in my lifestyle choices might remain the same.
Why? I can be one of the pioneers of bringing back the clothesline, at least in summer, in my Northeast suburban lifestyle. But will I?
I can make my family's own fresh bread and bagels--we have a lovely soapstone kitchen counter just begging for a kneading session. But will I?
What is it about the pace of my other life that gobbles up time that might be spent in loving, healthier, greener domestic rituals?
I have subscribed to the Fly Lady Fling, belong to a Facebook purge and declutter group, and a woman I met last weekend here in Utila introduced me to the 100 Thing Challenge. She's considering moving to the island, wondering what she will need. I told her I think Utila will suit her perfectly--it is easier here to live with less.
But what if I'm not ready for anything quite so extreme as narrowing my life down to 100 necessary belongings (or is it 500, when you count J and the Hoffspring?) What if I'm staring down my upcoming transition to the Land of Stuff (as my Utila ladies and I refer to the USA) and I want to take some of my island lessons back to my other life?
In what ways would you like to simplify your current life? What small steps would you choose to make? What quiet rituals would enrich your connection to the tasks of daily life, your family or the earth?
(Originally published at Chandra Hoffman, Author)