Less is More

I have a bumper sticker inconspicuously displayed on the inside wall of my laundry room. It reads Excess in Moderation. A good friend gave it to me a few years back and I still chuckle at the message. It is both ironic and instructive. And hard to remember.

Last week I heard the elegant and understated Aerin Lauder (Estee’s granddaughter) speak at a luncheon, and I was struck by her continual use of the word “edit.” Throughout her talk she referred to editing a room, editing a look, editing her brand. Clearly Leonardo da Vinci had the likes of her in mind when he said “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

The concept of simplicity and editing got me thinking about when I walked the Camino and had my whole life contained in a 22-pound pack on my back. While that pack weight sounds reasonable, trust me when I tell you that the pounds start to multiply as the miles accumulate under your feet. That said the act of carrying everything I needed with me on my journey from village to village was an intoxicatingly simple existence.

All non-essentials were left behind after the first day of walking and at the strong suggestion of some Belgians I met. Convinced they were doing permanent damage to their feet with an overly aggressive schedule and wearing too-heavy packs, they were abandoning their trip the following day after only walking for two of their five planned weeks.

I took them at their word – they scared the pants off me, frankly – and proceeded to edit my bag ruthlessly, even tearing pages from a book to reduce the pack weight. Because my feet gave me tremendous trouble up until about day 11, I’m not sure I downsized the bag zealously enough. But I did make my planned daily miles, for all 14 days, so something worked well enough. Thank you, Boris and Betya!

The edit mentality manifested in the real world upon my return when I decided to put my house on the market. With a strong desire to downsize, I had a sign in my yard within weeks of my flight home from Spain. The timetable from closing on that house to landing in my current, beloved house was longer and more circuitous than expected – not unlike the path we travel each day, Camino or otherwise – but oh how good it feels to finally be here.

In the spirit of downsizing and with a nod to PechaKucha – the art of the concise presentation – I bring you a glimpse of my 200-mile journey along the Camino in just 20 photos (below). Coming home with a whopping 599 images captured on my iPhone, I immediately chose my favorite 200 or so and made a 13-minute video set to two Van Morrison songs. Just this past weekend I edited it down to only 20 images, set it to Chopin, and it rolls in at 3:36 minutes (and with a bit more linger per slide).

While I am not narrating the slides for 20 seconds each – as would be the case if this were an actual presentation at a PechaKucha night, for example – I will share a brief story behind one of the images. After a particularly punishing day on my feet (and soul), I was crestfallen to come across the faux rock sign announcing another 3.3 km to reach the next village. Believing my stopping point was going to appear any moment, around the next bend, or surely the next, it was unthinkable to learn I still had two miles to go. I snapped that photo in utter disbelief.

So imagine you had to tell a story of any kind in 20 slides and speaking for only 20 seconds each. (Twenty seconds is roughly 60 words or three sentences per slide.) Which photos/slides would you choose and which would you leave out? What snippets would you share and how would you edit them? How would time and distance naturally edit the story for you?

How would you tell the story of your life, your children, your family, your beloved, your career, your great passion, your great ache? Which story would you choose to highlight? Which would you choose not to tell? And, importantly, who in your life has earned the right to hear your story?

The novelist Nancy Thayer reminds us…

“It’s never too late—in fiction or in life—to revise.”

4 Responses

  1. Kathie Collins

    Thank you for introducing me to “Pecha Kucha.” The concept—and the questions you ask—are profound. You have me visually rethinking my life stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lisa Rubenson

    Beautiful images, words and thoughts. The shadow cast on the long road (at 1:00) and the house in disrepair (at 2:40) struck me especially — gets to your question about the stories that go untold.

    Liked by 1 person

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