Simple Lifestyle with Nature’s Animals

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray
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It had been my intent to do a blog post about simplicity and nature on our personal blog site, but I believe these two topics conjoined have a more universal appeal than the limited exposure our blog site has. Over 20 years ago, we made the decision to live a more simple life. Living in the “big city,” we had accumulated many possessions that had, at best, limited function.

When we decided on a more uncluttered and simple lifestyle, we called an auctioneer and had him auction off the majority of our possessions. We did not get much for them but the liberating aspect was that they were gone and out of our life. When we were keeping them, we rationalized that even though we may only use them occasionally, they were still worth keeping. We were only lying to ourselves and once they were gone, we couldn’t have been happier and felt set free.

Items we currently have are used to maintain our homestead or lifestyle, or we don’t buy them to begin with. We have available a local website called Freecycle where we can list items we have no use for, so others who may have a use for them can take them off our hands. We also have a local charity with a slightly used store that willingly accepts them.

Our goal is to remain uncluttered and live a more simple life, not surrounded and cramped by items we rarely or never use anymore. We heat our home with a woodstove and our appliances are basic and simple. We have found that they are much easier to maintain and still provide appropriate function to meet our basic needs.

When we moved to our small cabin in the mountains, we were immersed in nature. When it comes to simplicity, nature is the gold standard to set our goals by. We have observed that nature is unencumbered with any excess and is simplicity at its best.

When we first settled in our cabin, we were not crowded with nearby neighbors except for curious wildlife. We had visits from curious bears, a mountain lion, coyotes, and a pair of grey wolves. Most of these wild animals came by to evaluate us and mark out territory. The bears clawed up trees and urinated under them to establish their territory, wolves marked (urinated) and the coyotes set boundaries also. If the mountain lion did, we did not see signs of it. Essentially they were telling us we could stay and they would accept it, but these were the boundaries we were to respect.

Some people would get unnerved if a large grey wolf came up to your storm door to look in. Others would get even more excited when a very huge black bear stood on its hind legs and did the same. They were curious about us and whether we posed a threat to them or not. Their lifestyle is simplicity at its best and humans are about their only real threat.

When they assured themselves that we posed no threat, they became excellent neighbors. As we would move around our 11 acres, if we encountered them, they tended to ignore us and go about their business. Having an adult bear walk past you, almost brushing up against you, would cause many to come totally unglued. To have an adult mountain lion come within 8 feet of you would be equally unnerving.

After proven as no threat, when we would see the lion (rare occasions) it would just walk on past without showing any hostility or alarm. Same with the bears, and when we would be cutting firewood, a bear would come and sit and watch us.

The point of this post is that living simply and not feeling possessive has its rewards. What we have learned from all wild animals over the past 18+ years is how life really is meant to be and how much we didn’t know before we had the opportunity to live with all the creatures. When you are able to get away from the masses and live a simple and basic lifestyle, there are more life lessons available if you choose to get along as opposed to defending your homestead or being possessive.

Living with the wildlife is an added bonus of a simple lifestyle that we did not anticipate. We knew the animals would be around but we never in our wildest imagination could have anticipated all they would teach us. Everything from the smallest to the largest of animals in our area (elk) are good teachers of virtues. They give and expect respect and are courteous — they clearly have grown to trust our presence.

One day when we are gone and someone else lives here, I can only hope that they will be wise enough to not be possessive but be willing to freely share this land with the wildlife.

The rewards are so numerous and have been so beyond our expectations that words can’t fully describe them. I often allude to some lessons learned in these posts, but to list them all is beyond my ability. When I hear people say that is “just” a deer or “just” an animal, it angers me because that animal is also just the very best teacher of positive virtues, such as respect, patience, courtesy and integrity, that they could find anywhere.

Many people are surrounded by so many natural teachers, but they are oblivious to them. How enriched their lives would be if they would just interact with them and observe their habits and traits more closely. Expensive homes, luxuries and nice cars are all fine but they don’t have what we have.

When you gain the trust of a wild animal of any kind, especially those who are also predators, you know in the center of your very being you have something extremely rare that money can’t buy and possessions won’t satisfy. It really depends on what makes you happy and what we experience on a regular basis makes us very happy.

For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and their domestic and natural family go to McElmurray’s Mountain Retreat. Read all of Bruce’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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