By Nikko W. Naugle
Writing for The Sounder is an amazing experience. I publish articles, practice my writing, learn all kinds of new things and receive compliments and ideas for future stories. I love it! Shortly after my Trumpeter Swan article ran, a kind lady named Rivkah Sweedler wrote me a thoughtful letter introducing herself and gifted me a book that she wrote, Wishy Washy’s Wish. She’s lived a life that not many people have lived, harvesting from the land, using minimal resources and appreciating her connection to nature each day. There’s a saying, “Some live simply so others can simply live”, and Rivkah’s lifestyle choices embody this simplicity.
I read the book then visited her beautiful home and gardens with my family to learn more about her life. On a sunny Friday morning, Rivkah shared her burgeoning garden delights with giddy pleasure. Vegetables, fruits, flowers of all shapes and colors, from rhubarb to raspberries and mole plants…the species and plant types are too numerous to list! While I walked through the garden eating calendula, I felt peaceful.
From living in harmony with nature and growing food in abundance, Rivkah lives the lesson of taking less so that others may have enough, and she shares her creativity and wisdom with others through story-telling and carving. Over the years, she brought her homemade dolls on hikes and told stories that gradually became one big one, named Wishy Washy’s Wish. Kids use the book as a curriculum guide for flora and fauna and making stick houses. Rivkah is known for sharing with the children and community her cedar bark animal sculptures and masks in places such as the public library, Historical Museum, Salmonberry and Springboard.
Rivkah lived in Youngstown, Ohio, which is not far from my grandparents, though she was born in California. Rivkah’s early life was influenced by nature but she did not yet have the skills to live in simple harmony. “The real learning started after college,” Rivkah said. Rivkah decided to live the way she does because she wanted to reduce the impact of consumerism for her and the world by not using too much. That’s why Walter, her partner, and Rivkah decided on a simple life, which means that she either makes what she needs or sources goods from The Exchange, and if it’s broken, she fixes it. Rivkah proudly uses a manual washing “machine” built by the Amish.
Rivkah shared in one of her hand-written letters that she is concerned about loss of affordable housing and loss of land. She’s seen people lose money which means losing housing, and she encourages these people to develop more outdoor skills. “The ‘new pioneers’ must learn and carry the skills of stewarding land and resources.” Rivkah applauds this new ‘Global Generation’ for being eager learners and seeking basic outdoor, forest, farming, and shelter building skills. (I know my little bit of shelter-building knowledge from Earthways Camp.)
While listening and learning about Rivkah’s perspective on simple living, I remembered my previous Sounder interview with Jeff Ludwig at The Exchange, where I learned about the importance of reusing and recycling. While Rivkah reuses and recycles, she also strives to reduce by only taking what she needs. She lives in her peaceful forest, shows up when you ask her to, and leaves a small footprint. Learning about Rivkah’s simple living also made me remember my Papa saying at SeaDoc, “Know. Connect. Protect.” When we know about a place, and feel connected and care for it deeply, we are much more likely to protect it.
Rivkah inspires me to use resources consciously, be less harmful to the earth, immerse myself in nature more, and start meditating. I might even write more stories on paper. It’ll be fun! Rivkah Sweedler has lived a simply impressive life. She encourages you to get outside and have fun, and I hope you do, too.
I’d like to thank my family for editing and giving ideas. Thank you to my teachers, Mr. and Mrs. Johnston, for editing too, and Colleen Smith at The Sounder for letting me write for this newspaper. Thanks to you for reading this! If you have any suggestions, please do tell me at firstname.lastname@example.org.