Simple Gifts

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

Joseph Brackett’s 1848 Shaker dance song wasn’t well known until composer Aaron Copland used it in Martha Graham‘s ballet, Appalachian Spring, first performed in 1944. Since then, the song has been adapted by many folk singers and composers. This first sentence has been broadened from Brackett’s original religious meaning to refer to the whole simplicity movement, or the path away from material possessions.

I remember singing Simple Gifts in middle school choir. I’ve always believed in the point of simple living in today’s context: knowing the difference between needs and wants, enjoying nature and family, spending time consciously. It’s an ongoing process to weed out what is not important — it’s like a writer editing a sentence.

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