Having taken spring quarter off to get married, Tom and I enrolled in summer school to keep pace with our graduation goals. Our professor, Sandra Simon, was in her late fifties with a full mane of curly gray ringlets. She wore large, square-shaped purple glasses and her wisdom seemed to flow like the boldly colored muumuus she always wore.
While we focused on improving our writing, Sandra was especially fond of seeing us learn more about ourselves. As newlyweds, she saw our exuberance, idealistic expectations, and listened to all our big plans. She smiled knowingly.
Towards the end of the quarter, she invited us to meet at her home. It was a bit of a drive from the campus, but she wanted to live in a place where she could “hear” nature. At the end of a winding gravel road, we pulled up to a one-story wood frame home. The door opened and a broad beaming smile and floral muumuu greeted us.
We sat in what she called her writing parlor—floor to ceiling bookshelves lined two of the four walls. Bright colored paintings of flowers and dancers with wild-colored costumes hung on the third wall. The fourth “wall” was glass. It looked out to a “woodland world that always changes” according to Sandra.
The writing parlor, a tiny kitchen, bathroom, and sleeping alcove formed her outpost. Sandra sipped tea as she explained that we really don’t need space as much as we need time. The less she had to take care of, the more time she had.
It was the first time I heard anyone say, “Less is more.”
As we discussed our final project, Sandra counseled, “Make your words count, it’s the same as how you can live, when having less is really a way of having more.”
I didn’t really understand what she meant. Then in a few years, when my work became nothing but a quest to get more things, I discovered I had less time to enjoy the things I was working so hard to get.
That’s when I finally learned Sandra’s lesson: in our work, in our writing, and even what we say to others, less is often more.