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As I was getting water for my medicine tonight, I happened to glance above my kitchen sink. My eye was caught by a silver dipper (a kitchen tool similar to a ladle). Why do you have a dipper Delanie, you might ask. After all, we do have running water in abundant supply, glasses to drink out of. Did you forget to put it up the last time you ate soup? No, I left it out for a reason. To remember what the simpler life is, the happier I’ll be.

My great-grandparents grew up on a mountain in Southwestern Virginia: coal mining country. They grew their own food, had no electricity and no running water. They even had an outhouse (which I’ve had the pleasure of using a time or two). As a child, I remember visiting the house on the hill many a time. A four-wheel drive is still needed to get to the small clearing. They had no indoor plumbing (1980′). No air conditioning to speak of. They often left big barrels outside so they could use rain water as a source to get water.

On their kitchen sink was a big bucket of water with a silver dipper in it. I watched in awe as people would drink the refreshing mountain water, time after time, from the same dipper. I was flabbergasted. How could they live like this, I thought.

I grew up in central Virginia in the suburbs. A small hustling and bustling college town. The store and the mall were minutes away. From a young age, I wanted to get out, back to the country of my roots. My parents, like all parents, wanted me to have all they had and more. More opportunities abounded in the city. The people, the traffic….. it was all going to get me everything I needed at my fingertips, but I wanted quiet. Space. The simple life.

That brings me back to the dipper. I live on open land where I can’t see my neighbors. The mall is 30 minutes away. We have to drive 20 minutes to Walmart (heaven forbid!). We have chickens and a donkey. My kids can go outside and run without worrying about passing cars. When we go outside, it’s quiet. Peaceful. Simple. Like life with a dipper.

My great-grandparents were happy. I know my memory is not spot on and some facts my be distorted, but the premise is still the same. They raised wonderful children and lived to a ripe old age. I hear stories of my Pa carrying the coal on a sled up the side of the mountain and I smile. This is what I think of when I see the dipper.


Getty image by marcduf

Originally published: February 24, 2022
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