Stone Gate Days and Minimalism

“Do not be misled by what you see around you, or be influenced by what you see. You live in a world which is a playground of illusion, full of false paths, false values and false ideals. But you are not part of that world.”
– Sai Baba

On random days, I get this feeling. This uncomfortable feeling that we live in such a fake world. Buildings. Food. Politicians. As I look back, I can see that I’ve felt this way since I was very little. But it wasn’t until my twenties that I gave it a name: Stone Gate Days.

Our transition from Houston to “the country” took about a year. We made weekly trips back and forth to get more things (oh how I wish I could go back to that younger version of myself and tell her to just leave it all back there). On these trips, I watched the quick development of a cookie cutter subdivision go up almost piece by piece.

First, they cleared the land of its native trees and bushes and grass and flowers. Then trucks hauled in dirt to make roads. They covered it with concrete. Not long into the process, they built two columns on each side of the entrance. Tall, ugly pillars of particle board welcomed the contractors as the houses went up.

The houses were nice. Ordinary as far as subdivisions go. When they were finished building them, they brought in trees and pallets of grass. I thought of all the trees they tore down. The animals they probably displaced. Then I went home, felt the rough country grass beneath my feet, fed the goats, leaned against an old oak tree and promised to protect it.

The whole time, those unattractive, unfinished pillars waited. The neighborhood seemed finished. I wondered why they would leave those awful towers of crap-pasted wood at the entrance, convinced that they must just be place markers.

On a solo trip (to get more stuff, of course) I saw why. A group of men in dust-covered overalls worked around them, pasting stones to the cheap wood. On my way back by, I stopped and stared. It looked like real, solid, stone columns. At the top, the sign read “Stone Gate”.

I cried all the way home.

It felt like someone had drawn a curtain and I could see behind the false things of my world. Not just the subdivision. But all of it. It stained me. It broke me. In a red pill kind of way.

I don’t have to drive by that subdivision to remind myself of Stone Gate. When money was very tight one year, we decided to “treat” ourselves with a fast food burger. And then it hit me again. The “food” was fake. All a chemical illusion. I get the sense sometimes when I go shopping or catch a few commercials while waiting for my oil change. That sense that we are surrounded by lies.

I don’t cry for hours any more. My therapy is to go for a run in the woods. Or just press my face against the rough bark of a cedar tree to smell its sap. I hug my favorite man on the planet. I play with the kids in my life. I call my Mom. I pet our dogs. These things are the “realest” things in my life.

On my quest for simplicity, the easiest things to get rid of are the things that remind me of Stone Gate. Plastic parts painted to look like metal. Lotion that smells like lavender but doesn’t actually have any lavender in it. Foods that have to scream “natural” and “wholesome” on the label with a chemical ingredient list a mile long.

I’m still feeling my way around minimalism. I move forward. I fall back. I stall. I learn. The more I do it, the more I realize that I want a life free of Stone Gate. I want my living space, the tools I use, the person I am to be as real as possible. Simple. Beautiful. To the core.

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15 comments

  1. I think we could all do with a little less Stone Gate – but it can be so seductive. I’m glad you’re finding you can get rid of it.

    I have to say that the whole of Singapore comes across as a little bit Stone Gate to many people, and it did at first to me, too. It took a while to see through the facade and recognise the real stuff anchoring it. Even so, I often look around and feel like I “should” be doing or having this or that, to fit in – very Stone Gate. Your post will remind me to keep trying to resist the seduction.

    1. “Seductive” is such a good word for it!

      That “should” feeling is what wears me down sometimes. I feel almost pestered and “beat up” by all the adverts shouting at me – even while in the grocery store.

      I’d love to just buy an island and never be bothered by “Stone Gate” again. But I can’t. Gotta fix the air conditioner on my car first. :). I guess part of the art is not ignoring it as much as finding a way to “see through the facade and recognise the real stuff anchoring it.” Love the way you put that.

      I’m so glad my post will help you do anything. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Nancy. You could have just clicked “like” and moved on. But you didn’t. You took the time to write two words that warm my heart. Simple and sweet. Rock on, sweaty woman! 🙂

  2. Hey….is it my imagination or does your blog have a great new look??? I like it! Plus, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t find a way to sign up for your blog before and now THERE IT IS RIGHT AT THE TOP OF YOUR PAGE! Anyway, I loved this post for its ability focus so clearly on an issue that plagues us all…but you know what? For me it is more of a “aw…they tricked me a again!” I think I tend to see Stone Gate more as a magicians slight of hand….do I get sucked into it? Or do I stay conscious and aware enough to see the illusion? As Sai Baba says, it is ALL illusion anyway…. ~Kathy

    1. It IS a new look! Thanks! And you are right about the email sign up. Baby steps. I get there. 🙂

      Indeed. I find that the simple fact that I have labeled that feeling helps me move on. Not always. But sometimes. I like the magicians slight of hand as a label too. So true.

      Thanks for commenting (and noticing the new look!). Cheers, Kathy!

  3. I really like how you describe fake with the stone gate. It is so fascinating now to be living in such a wild place. I mean that literally. Totally saw an Amarillo the other day. Sometimes it freaks me out, mostly it makes me feel more alive. Glad you can see it where you are. And yeah for tree hugging!

    1. Thanks! I live in Texas so I see those strange creatures often. 🙂 You ARE in a wild place – in more ways than one. But you seem to be making the transition with grace and beauty. Love your blog. Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. May all your waves be wonderful. 😉

  4. I love this post, Ginny. I see sooo much of myself in it. It’s like you’ve been reading my journals. I get the sense that this life isn’t REAL life…that we could peel back the layers and find real truth, but all the things that come at us daily — all the advertisements, all the obsessions, all the trends — aren’t real truth at all; only lies that we gulp down hook, line and sinker. But you’ve articulated it so much better than I have. Thanks for this.

    1. Thank you! It was one of those that just “poured out” of my heart. Totally bypassed that filter that asks “Should I write this?” and just came out. I promise I haven’t been reading your journals but I have been reading your blog. That last poem struck me pretty hard. Just beautiful.

      On Stone Gate days, it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who sees that the emperor is naked. I’m overwhelmed and honored and comforted by the responses I’ve received from writing this. Thank YOU for leaving a comment fellow truth-seeker. 🙂

  5. Ginny, I feel the same way about those subdivisions. Several years ago we were living in the Phoenix area, this was as strange for me as living on another planet. Where I came from (and returned to) we had open spaces, grass, trees, water and the few subdivisions tried to blend into the surrounding areas. To see nothing but walls surrounding these cookie cutter subdivisions so that as you drove errands all you ever saw was a wall with pieces of a roof here and there poking out. It was sad and so impersonal. I’m glad you found your spot that allow you to feel that connection to the earth, it makes all the difference for me.

  6. Hi Lois! I know what you mean. Stone Gate was just one of many in Houston. But like the food in the grocery store, I just didn’t even wonder about how it came to be in my world.

    When we first started talking about moving out of the city, I balked. Besides visits with family or camp or retreats, I had never lived in a rural area. I didn’t know if I would like it or if I could even handle it. Pssht. Now I can’t imagine going back. I can visit and even appreciate the community and art in urban areas. Houston is a dynamic city. But I do not regret moving.

    Having a spot that allows me to connect with the earth makes it much easier to connect with like-minded people (like you, awesome lady). Thank you so much for leaving a comment. I have such respect for you and your way of life. Cheers to you!

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