Scraping Cottonwood Seed Sap Off My Shoes

Samsara {Discussion}

Now that I am offline more often, it is interesting to rely on what I do know instead of “Googling” everything. My husband and I are realizing both that we have a deeper knowledge of natural topics than we perhaps gave ourselves credit for, and that we are heavily reliant on being able to look things up instantly. Gone are the leather-bound encyclopedias of our childhood; they have been replaced by technology that is not necessarily available everywhere. It is an interesting wrinkle and a topic of much discussion as we journey. Stripping away so much of our daily routines to the bare minimum has illuminated that much of what transpires in life isn’t a true necessity.

In the past when I have read about the idea of “samsara”, I have found different definitions. And since I don’t have references at hand at the moment, I am going to share the best brainstorming on the topic that my husband and I discussed as I wrote this post:

  • Samsara is like purgatory: it is an intermediate level of being that doesn’t matter but that we (humans) wallow in.
  • Samsara can be day to day life, but it does not have to be.
  • Bureaucracy is the highest level of samsara.

What I really want to discuss is the fact that samsara can be day to day life, but it does not have to be. We all make choices. Some of us are privileged enough to choose to fulfill wants instead of needs. I think that as soon as we are operating outside of any direct need, we can choose to let samsara into our lives.

Scraping Cottonwood Seed Sap Off My Shoes

Scraping Cottonwood Seed Sap Off My Shoes

Really, this all goes back to the end of my last blog post about the Sparkler Mini Quilt and the tradeoffs in time that I have been making and noticing these past few weeks. My husband and I try to go for a walk at least once, if not twice each day. The cottonwood trees are blooming and I have been dedicating much time in my day to scraping the cottonwood seed sap off of my shoes so that I don’t track it into our truck, onto our entry ladder, and into our habitat. I actually wasn’t feeling as pouty as much as extremely silly when my husband captured the picture above. Instead of being annoyed by the time I was investing into cleaning my shoes, I was enjoying learning about what was causing wads of leaves to stick to my feet. I enjoyed being silly about my patented shoe cleaning device: “It might look like a simple stick, but flip it around and it’s a magic wand!” And I definitely prefer to spend a few minutes cleaning my shoes to cleaning up the interior of my cozy living environment from copious amounts of sticky grime.

So, what does this have to do with samsara? Well, I guess I am just realizing that samsara is a choice. It’s a choice about how I respond to something. It’s a choice about how I fill my days, the things that I say “yes” to and the things that I get stressed out about.

And what I’m finding is that I very much want to say yes to quilting in my life. Recently, the times I have carved out to cut fabric, or edit a quilt pattern, or sew a seam have been delightful. When I’ve ripped seams (I’ve been paper piecing: I always rip my basting seam to join sections at least once), I have delighted in the luxury of time to make my work a little bit better.

I have spoken about balance in life before, and I have enjoyed watching the scales of time tip, shift, and change over the years. This whole thought process also reminds me of a story that I am sure you have heard before, but was first introduced to me by Walter Odom, the engineering co-operative program and professional practices director at the University of Tennessee.

“Imagine that I have a large pitcher in front of me. I fill the pitcher with large rocks. Is the pitcher full? I have medium size pebbles; can they fit into the pitcher? If I pour slowly and shake the large pitcher, the medium pebbles nestle into the pitcher. Now is the pitcher full? I have small pebbles and in the same manner, I can add the pebbles to the pitcher. Now is the pitcher full? I have fine beach sand, and I can add sand to the pitcher until all the nooks and crannies are filled. Now is the pitcher full? I have water, and I can slowly add water. Now the pitcher is full.”

I have puzzled over the exact meaning of this story. Is it to choose wisely what large rocks fill my day? Is it to keep stretching and be as productive as possible, because there is still room for more to fit? I guess I am thinking that the reality might be that life continually shakes us up in one way or another and that the rocks, pebbles, sand, and water will shift and move. Perhaps life is more like the water flowing to fill the gaps.

Whenever I have been in the middle of a stressful activity or life event, I don’t know that someone suggesting to me to “try to see things differently” would have gone over well as a suggestion. But evaluating if I still want to say “yes” to an activity has always been a good place for me to start to find the change I have needed to stay afloat. May we all have the opportunity to say yes to things that make us happy and time to reflect and change should circumstance change.

12 thoughts on “Samsara {Discussion}

  1. An interesting post. I think when you are living as simply as you both are, so close to nature and with limited space it doesn’t surprise me that each action/choice becomes simpler to make. We used to feel exactly the same when we’d arrive at our Scottish holiday cottage for a couple of weeks with two bags each and have a wonderful time unencumbered by a whole load of stuff. We’d ask ourselves why life couldn’t be this simple always.

    But once back home reality set in and although our pitcher seemed full at the time, back at home it got that much fuller with the pebbles and sand of a far less simpler life. Work for a start! I think the trick is to have parts of your life just with plenty of air round the boulders, space to breathe, but accept at other times it will get cluttered. I try hard to keep life simpler in terms of stuff but there’s a lot more I could do on that front!

    By the way I’m sure I’m like many other of your readers and am really enjoying news of your new, albeit temporary, way of life and travels. Hope they carry on being restorative and fun.

  2. You are so right! Changing circumstances happen all the time, and how we approach it is really what can make the hugest difference. Now, I have no native knowledge of a cottonwood tree – wouldn’t know what it was if I ran into one – but necessity is the mother of invention – isn’t it. You seem to be finding ways to think and enjoy this process – the many blessings you gain and the living without the many things we don’t need.

  3. mlwilkie says:

    I have been taking a break as I have been feeling extremely burnt out of late in almost all areas of my life. I took a big leap about changing my circumstances the other day and was so surprised by the outcome. I really wanted a sabbatical but my company does not offer one….as I really need a break to get into good practices and destress. You know, look after me. Talked it over with hubby and we agreed I could take a break from working, so talked to my boss. Guess what, apparently I have value with my company and they don’t want to loose me – I have an extended vacation period upcoming.

  4. Jean Ramirez says:

    I’m going to be thinking about the rocks in the pitcher all day—it won’t be a waste of time. Thank you.

  5. Suzanne says:

    Your trip appears to have stimulated introspection on your part – something I believe we all need once in a while as long as it doesn’t create internal confusion. The “pitcher” story seems to reflect this. However, I wonder is it also is suggesting that we tend to over-complicate our lives and need to simplify? As I age, I’m 68, I begin to see simplification as very desirable so my husband and I are beginning a simplification process to de-clutter our home and our finances. It’s a very good feeling.

  6. Elizabeth E. says:

    I’ve heard the rocks-pebbles-sand-water analogy all my life, mostly in the context of sitting in church meetings, the speaker asking us to consider how we fill our lives, to prioritize so we aren’t so busy with less important things that we forget to leave time for that which really matters. But I had to go look up Samsara to read about it, as your ideas were a springboard for me. As you note, there are various meanings of that word, depending on which source is consulted (my current luxury of connecitivity), but I am more drawn to the idea of “wandering” rather than “delusion.”

    Thanks for your post, as I head into LA today to see the exhibit of ikat robes from the 18th and 19th century at LACMA, and to do a little wandering myself through this earthly existence. I hope your day is filled with not only small things that anchor you (cottonwood sap, perhaps) but also large events that transcend.

    Happy Traveling!

  7. Joan says:

    Great post! I really enjoyed reading it!

  8. I so enjoyed your words today, and the habitat and your travels are all maybe in the big plan for you both. Technology, it seems so important, instant knowledge, research on many subjects, sharing and caring between blog friends, and then to manage without that is a changing process. Time to smell the roses,and fill the jar with whatever it needs to give you a happy and fulfilled day. Fond greetings.

  9. helen says:

    I have been loving your road trip posts yvonne, travelling vicariously through you both! The only way I am likely to be so remote and self sufficient. If we got a puncture roadside, we would be stuck. I would spend the whole time worrying about running out of fuel. I love the photo of you cleaning your shoes. I have never heard of Samsara. I have been trying to slow down, I must discuss your blog post with my husband, who constantly tells me to slow down but doesn’t himself

  10. It is wonderful to take the time to slow down and live in the moment and in the world. Your story about the jar is one I’ve seen as well. If you put the sand and the little pebbles in first, the big ones won’t fit. It is a metaphor to pay attention to what is most important first, and let everything else slide in around the things that really matter instead of getting caught up in the little stuff that doesn’t matter. Enjoy your time in your Wabi-Sabi!

  11. Kaja says:

    Great post, Yvonne. I often look for holidays where there will be limited internet access – we do rely on the web for so much information but it can also suck time away without us even being aware of it. It sounds like your change of pace/rhythm is prompting lots of interesting thinking.

  12. springleafstudios says:

    This is a wonderful post. And fun to read the comments too. Very thought provoking. I love the rocks story and am unfamiliar with samsara so I see a little reflecting and study in my future. Thanks for the inspiration and introspection.

I really appreciate the time and thought you take to comment, and I look forward to conversing with you. :)