The Reason They Can Fly

Note: This article first appeared on No Sidebar.

Photo by Stephen Leonardi on Unsplash

“Things! Burn them, burn them! Make a beautiful fire! More room in your heart for love, for the trees! For the birds who own nothing–the reason they can fly.” -Mary Oliver in her poem Storage

I was reading a collection of poems by Mary Oliver, and this particular poem jumped out at me.

Particularly the last line, “For the birds who own nothing–the reason they can fly.”

This feels like a poetic definition of simplicity.

It feels like the reason behind many of our decisions.

“Why are you still living in a small space?” So we can fly.

“Why do you guys still have only one car?” So we can fly.

“Why did you get off social media (again)?” So I can fly.

Each time I remove things or processes I feel my load get lighter. It is easier to get where I want to go. It is easier to be calm. It feels like flying.

If someone asked me for the perfect simplicity metaphor, it would be hiking.

Imagine hiking with a huge pack full of stuff. Imagine the weight and struggle.

Now imagine that at each switchback you get to remove one item from your pack. By the time you reach the top you have nothing on your back.
You get to enjoy the summit unencumbered by stuff.

You stand at the summit admiring the beauty, completely free.

This is what I am continually seeking with simplicity–freedom.

And as my house has more quiet hours with the kids in school, I am able to see all the things I need to remove from my pack.

I don’t want a full pack at the summit. I don’t want it full at the lookout points along the way, either.

So at this new switchback in our family, I am excited to lighten my pack.

And it will be the reason we will fly.


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