Simple Pleasures

Sustenance and transportation are two necessities of daily life. People need to eat and need to get from one place to another. How one chooses to fulfill these needs greatly affects one’s life. Our society in general is going about it all wrong. Pleasure, health and happiness can be derived from these tasks. I don’t mean by eating steak and driving a porsche; I’m not talking about anything money can buy, but about simple pleasures.

Just some thoughts after another beautiful Saturday at the farmer’s market, eating fresh food in the shade of old trees and then hopping on the bikes for a quiet ride home. The price for hours of entertainment, quality time, exercise, transportation, fresh air and happiness – nada. For local food (cherries, cheese, arugula, croissant, mushrooms) – ten dollars per person.

I’m no master of simple living, but I know what makes me happy. Bicycles and fresh food are so obviously good, their near-invisibility in society boggles the mind.

What is your take on simple pleasures and how they affect your life?

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29 thoughts on “Simple Pleasures

  1. E A says:

    Life’s simple pleasures are the sweetest indeed. A ride with friend, a great chat with an old friend, time spent outdoors in the park on a lovely summer night. Better than anything $ can buy. :-)

  2. Jon says:

    Our society has nursed and appetite that thrives on speed, cheapness, and easiness. We want everything FAST, CHEAP, and EASY. But somethings take time. In fact, very little can be done right, instantly.

    A summer squash takes time, and water, and eventually, a little oil and cornmeal in a hot skillet.

    Relationships take time, and struggle, and eventually resolution.

    Art takes time, and soul, and impetus. Muse cannot be manufactured on the assembly line; she must be invoked.

    Culture takes time, and free citizens, and the betrayal of mediocre values such as FAST, CHEAP, and EASY.

  3. a couple of simple pleasures of mine [off the top of my head]:

    an easy, spur-of-the-moment, sight-seeing bike ride with the boyf around his or my neighborhood
    my two kittens sitting on my chest in the morning, licking my chin, and walking around my face, seemingly to say ‘get up, mommy, get up.’

    Haa haa.
    I wish I could somehow *merge* the two. ;)

    Happy 4th.

  4. Cherilyn says:

    “Bicycles and fresh food are so obviously good, their near-invisibility in society boggles the mind.”


    We had a lovely party here with good friends, happy kids and local food. Heaven. Glad you had your own slice. Happy 4th!

  5. Jim says:

    No master of simple living here either… quite the opposite actually, but I can totally relate to this post. My son recently joined the biking ranks without training wheels and our absolute BEST moments this summer have come on the bike.

    No gas, no parking fees, no internet charges, no admission fees. We found a couple tree forts by the river, so we haven’t even needed to pay out for building materials :)

    We ride used bikes that cost less than $20 each, fish with handed down poles from grandpa, fight enemy troops with laser gun sticks found in the woods and let our imagination do it’s best work.

    These are our simple pleasures and our best time spent — time I’m certain we will both remember fondly.

    P.S. I need to get to my local farmer’s market more. Thanks for the reminder.

  6. maria says:

    We try for balance. I have certain things that i do which are intentionally simple – we grow our own vegetables, we intentionally live in a small house, we try to shop local, etc. That said, I’m a big fan of extravagance from time to time. :-)

    • Dottie says:

      Oh yes, balance. I’m no stranger to extravagance, what with my trips to Europe and fancy shoes (although I maintain that beautifully made shoes are not so extravagant, as they last so long and go with so many outfits and instead of throwing them out, I repair them).

  7. I prefer simple food, and most activities I enjoy happen to be free, not counting the initial supplies (art, writing, reading, cycling).

    On the other hand, I am going to be difficult here just for fun. I think the idea of “simple pleasures” is in many ways a contemporary marketing concept just like anything else, and that bothers me. To raise the market value of something, one has merely to describe it as having been “carefully crafted” or “lovingly grown” and to stress the necessity of it for that elusive, wholesome (and morally superior?) simple lifestyle. Simplicity should not necessitate a culture around it, and, especially, special items or foods. Yet people often buy lots of stuff and engage in a flurry of extra activities just to keep things “simple”… making that lifestyle of simplicity awfully complicated to maintain. Just a thought, especially after having just gotten back from Romania.

    • Dottie says:

      I agree with what you’re saying as it relates to green washing. Someone meticulously following Martha Stewart publications to “live simply” is missing the point. However, I don’t actually know anyone like that, so from my point of view it’s more a stereotype than a reality.

      In cities like Chicago, activities favoring simplicity – as opposed to the destructive status quo – naturally create a culture around them and that culture is necessary to support the activities. People who ride bikes and buy local food in Chicago are a minority. Without a culture of people working for safer bicycling facilities and local food (including groups who make sure LINK cards can be used at farmer’s markets, bring vegetable stalls to less-served neighborhoods, and work in the schools to grow urban gardens with children), the dominant car and boxed food culture would take over completely. In the process, some products will be marked up and superfluous products will be created, but I believe the end result will be a net gain for society.

      Maybe people in other countries live simply more purely, but maybe that’s because they are not bombarded with an instant consumer culture as we are in America. Sometimes you have to fight marketing with marketing, but I know that’s an issue on which we agree to disagree. :)

      • Amy says:

        Also, it depends on an individuals idea of simple. 200 years ago, or even 100 years ago, what we might call “simple living” was necessary hard work just to live. Getting up with the sun to grow food and care for livestock and make clothing was hard work all day, everyday for men, women and children alike. I teach about this at historical re-enactments often, and people always walk away grateful for their Walmart’s and grocery stores. Some people fancy striving for that lifestyle now, and that’s great if they can manage to pull it off, or even just incorporate some of it into their modern lifestyle, but I bet you that if you pulled a family out of the 18th century and plopped them down in any modern town now, they would be amazed at how “simple” our lives have become. Their idea of simple living might be just easier living. My idea of simple living is working hard for the little things that make my life more enjoyable (like handspun/handknit socks in the winter.) :)

      • Curly Suze says:

        Dottie wrote above: “Sometimes you have to fight marketing with marketing .. ”

        So true. My father always espoused daily bicycle commuting, but he did so entirely from the viewpoint of saving fuel and not being in a car like everyone else. It didn’t gain any converts. He grew up in Munich anyway which has got a bicycle culture of its own. However, it is a whole nother approach (and a wonderful one too, I think) to market bicycling as healthy good-looking style, something that appeals first to the senses. The pictures on the front pages of Copenhagen Cyclery Chicago, Bates Crates, etc do a great job showing it that way instead of expressing it as hard numbers about how much fuel you save, how much carbon you didn’t add to the air, the health benefits of cardiovascular exercise, and more.

  8. Adam says:

    One simple pleasure that comes to mind must always be a surprise: getting caught in a rain shower, especially when you are with someone special.

    • Dottie says:

      I can’t think of a time that I was upset to be caught in a rainstorm. Even a scary storm is exhilarating and getting soaking wet makes me feel like a kid again. I played in rain storms A LOT as a kid. One of the most memorable days of my life was playing in the rain with my sister. We were being pigs and dug holes in the front yard big enough to fill with mud and wallow in. Boy, was our mom mad! She made us fill in all our hard work and later plant new grass seeds, but it was awesome and totally worth it :)

      • Amy says:

        LOL, that’s great! My cousin and I did something similar, but couldn’t be bothered to wait for the rain. So we took the garden hose and flooded the back yarn to dig it up into what we decided was a “mud bog”. I don’t think that the yard ever really recovered from that, at least while we lived there.

  9. Dave says:

    Well, I will agree for myself personally that food and bicycles are two of the greatest pleasures in my life :)

    I see Velouria’s point as well, that often food that is naturally grown without being genetically modified, sprayed with pesticides, etc is marked up because it’s “special” – and I hate that about America for a number of reasons.

    But on the other hand, to me it’s still worth paying the little bit extra to both enjoy the food, and know that you’re putting something in your body that it can actually process and that will be beneficial for it rather than harmful.

    Recently when we were down at the farm where we get our milk, we were discussing how strange it is that there are all these small towns in Oregon that are surrounded by beautiful farms, and yet almost none of the food consumed in the small towns comes from those farms, it’s all shipped in Sysco stuff.

    Portland is shifting a lot towards trying to promote and use local naturally grown food, for health reasons, for “green” reasons (as unfortunate as that label is), and also simply to support the local city and state economy. They’re trying to encourage as many people as possible to grow some of their own food at home or in community gardens, and more and more restaurants and grocery stores are starting to focus on getting their food supplies from Oregon farms as much as is feasible.

    I think this is a good thing, as the more ubiquitous this attitude is, the less you’ll have to go to “specialty” stores to get good food, and that’s a plus for everyone.

    Now we just need to work on the over-consumption issue (a problem with everything in America), so local farms don’t have to turn to mass-production.

    I have to say though, the farmers market is one of my very favorite places to go – it’s like an art exhibit, only it also smells and sounds good, and you come away from it with something you can use! :)

    Just yesterday we got a half-flat of blackberries and made blackberry jam, we got cabbages and I’m setting up a batch of sauerkraut to ferment today, basil for pesto, carrots to make honey-glazed carrots to go with salsa marinated chicken, onion and potatoes and spinach for thai curry.

    Yeah, I love food.

  10. Karen says:

    I love the images and the words. This morning I pedaled down to the Sunday Flagstaff Farmer’s Market, one of my favorite occasions. We don’t usually have the lush amount of produce you find in the mid-west farmer’s markets but I appreciate to the opportunity to purchase locally and regionally grown food. Today I picked up some hybrid melons grown south of here and locally produced goats cheese (and fudge). Bob and I will enjoy these on the front porch this weekend, just the two of us.

    We’ve been talking a lot, like many people these days, about living as simply as possible. I’ve pretty much tried to live my entire adult life that way but I am afraid that Bob really didn’t before we met. Because of the belt tightening we’ve done in anticipation of a possible lay-off at some point he has discovered a lot about what he can live without and how much space we really need. For both of us, the experience of bike commuting has motivated us to make choices more deliberately with the focus on quality rather than quanity, and experiences rather than just stuff.

  11. Anne Hawley says:

    The combination of my bike and the neighborhood farm market is one of the best things in my life! I don’t know if it meets some external criterion for simple, but it sure feels simpler to me than anything I used to do when I was driving.

    This post is lovely–as are all your posts–and since what you describe is exactly how I spent part of my day too (only with my 80 year old mom–who walks to the market), I just wanted to weigh in with a big “hear hear!”

  12. Ann says:

    Although modern life may offer far more technology that makes many necessary chores easier, it has assumed a pace that our grandparents would think appalling, especially in urban and suburban areas. We need to intentionally slow down periodically and enjoy the non-complicated, simple things in life, such as observing the beauty in the nature that surrounds us. We also need to turn off the technology and gadgets that keep us “connected” and stressed 24/7. Life is so very short, I hope everyone can take the time to slow down once and while to catch their breath and appreciate the wonder that is life.

  13. Carolyn I. says:

    I think that Farmer’s Markets and bicycles go so well together. It’s very pleasant biking to it and carrying locally grown fruit/vegetables home. I went by car with my Mom to it when she was visiting, and it just wasn’t the same!

    Yes, some of the food is more expensive, but it tastes much better then the mass produced stuff that you get in the stores.

    I don’t think that I really lead a simple life all the time, but I believe that having my bicycle as my everyday choice of transportation, does simplify my life a little and makes me enjoy life’s experiences more each day, then if I was going around in a car.

    I saw this article today about the mayor of Vancouver wanting to bring in more Farmer’s Markets to Vancouver, and I am so happy to hear about that!

  14. dave says:

    I know my eyes, along with the rest of me, are getting old, but it does appear as if there’s a pastry or two in the layout. Or else some sort of creme-filled vegetable. hmmm…

    and oh, as the replies tell, you can spend a long time delving into what it means to live simply. Not as easy to figure out as one might think at first glance. I’d say start with rereading John Woolman: “May we look upon our Treasures, and the furniture of our Houses, and the Garments in which we array ourselves, and try whether the seeds of war have any nourishment in these possessions or not.”

  15. Stephen says:

    There’s something deliciously ironic about the idea of living so simply in the heart of the one of the largest and technologically sophisticated cities in the American midwest. But I like it.

    What Dottie does at her best is to show us how even in such a place, citizens can live so. And we’re going to have to get better at it. I think we all know that in ways, the game is up. The phat life the personal automobile was supposed to bring us is killing us, much less terrifying us all and taking away our freedoms one by one. The lowly, simple bicycle has been there all along, however, like a long-suffering dog waiting for his or her master to come to their senses.

    I recently visited (drove through and observed from a minivan, I’m ashamed to say) an Amish community in Iowa. I have no illusions about wanting to trade lives, but the vignettes of children playing barefoot in the yards and gardens of the homesteads, including one little boy riding a toy kick scooter, remain with me.

    Thanks for reminding us all about what bicycling can be in the city, Ms. Dottie.

    • Scott says:

      “The phat life the personal automobile was supposed to bring us is killing us, much less terrifying us all and taking away our freedoms one by one.”

      How true.

  16. Lady Vélo says:

    Simple Pleasures make life worth living.
    Those pictures are beautiful, and remind me of similar pleasures that keep me happy…

    Borough Market over here in the UK is excellent for fresh produce and the most delicious fruit, veg and naughty foodie treats… always makes me happy.

    The felling of utter freedom when I’m on my Pashley – simple pleasure that I wonder how I did without before I got her… :)

  17. welshcyclist says:

    Enjoyed the post, and the common sense behind it all. Keep driving, or should I say, cycling the message. We all need to look at how we live.

  18. Traci says:

    I love farmer’s markets also, but unfortunately, as with many things, we’re still lagging behind a bit in the south. We have several farmer’s markets around the city, but most are very small and not nearly the selection available in other areas. I think shopping and dining locally are still seen as a novelty here, but luckily, the concept seems to be spreading.

    My favorite simple pleasure is just curling up somewhere with a good book – if I really get into a book I’ll read for hours on end if able to and lose all track of time :)

  19. Catherine says:

    My favorite simple pleasure is riding my bike with my dog. I use the Springer bike attatchment so that I can ride my bike while he runs along beside me. A good bike ride on a beautiful day sure can brighten one’s spirits! I can tell it makes my dog happy too! I saw there were a lot of people who also enjoyed riding bikes, so if you also are a dog lover, you should look into getting a Springer bike attatchment! I got mine at their website: Have a beautiful day!

  20. […] posts from Let’s Go Ride a Bike and shebicycles have made me think about simple pleasures and life on two wheels. The really […]

  21. Nathan says:

    I enjoyed all these comments. I am in Cheshire, England, a small town with a farmer’s mrket about 4 miles away. I cycle their with my bike trailer and stock up on fresh produce. Thanks for a lovely blog which I always read!

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