I am re-reading "Little House on the Prairie" at the moment- working with third graders often inspires me to re-visit the books they are reading for the first time. (You should have seen their faces when I read them the story of the wolves surrounding the log cabin! They were RIVETED!)
I love reading stories of people alone "on the edge", because pitting yourself against wilderness is humbling. You have to draw upon your every resource, including skills you didn't even know you possessed.
I like to read about adventurers, because I'm not sure I could endure the physical hardship and austerity their lives demanded. (Austerity both attracts and repels me, because on one hand it offers quiet contemplation, but on the other hand it can be severe and cruel). As I read I consider their physical struggles a metaphor for the spiritual journey and personal growth we are all capable of.
Anyhow, I was just reading about the Ingalls family Christmas celebration. Each child got a peppermint stick and a new pair of mittens and a very large, special supper. That was all. The simplicity of their Christmas celebration was in stark contrast to the pile of goodies under our tree and the onslaught of decadent food that starts in November and lasts all the way till January when we vow to abstain for ever after! In today's world, so bombarded by choices and things and information it's easy to romanticize Laura's life on the prairie and gloss over what must have been difficult, dirty and dangerous.
But what I love most about these stories is that no one wonders what their purpose is. Every day is filled with tasks of survival and their hands are busy until it is time to rest, and then they do that too. It's a far cry from what modern life can sometimes be.
How do you cultivate simplicity in your own life? I am constantly filling bags to donate to the Salvation Army and work on it in other small but tangible ways- like unsubscribing from pesky e-mails and mail order catalogs. Do you remember reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's books as a kid? What did you learn from them?