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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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