How to live a simple life

It's 3 P.M. on a Sunday afternoon.

After a four hour drive through three state lines - Tennessee, Kentucky, and Indiana - we pull up through a graveled back alley to our upstairs studio loft.

We've made it to Bloomington, Indiana.

As I shift our Mazda 3 rental car into park, I see a man walk out onto the back porch of the property to greet us.

His hair hasn't been washed in a few days, but he's pulling it off - it looks cool.

His wrinkled polo shirt matches the Carolina blue in the sky.

His fitted chino's are rolled up at the bottom.

His feet are slipped into birkenstock sandals.

We get out and he introduces himself casually. "You guys here to rent out the airbnb?"

"Yes."

"Okay, your entrance is just around the corner and up the stairs. If you need anything give me a holler."

"Thanks."

As we walk by the main house, the air is suffused with curry. I'm curious, so I take a peak inside. The guy who welcomed us, is in the kitchen chopping away.

Midway up the stairs, Charlie (my wife) says, "Dang, that smells good."

As soon as my eyes were exposed to the interior of our studio, I knew right away that the owner of this place has a taste for art, creativity and mindfulness.

A chalkboard wall graffitied with drawings, quotes and quips from past guests pulls me in. One of them says, "Superman flies looking down at the ground, seems like a waste."

An old school general electric fridge, operated by a latch handle houses things that need to stay cold.

A brick wall that looks like it shouldered a fire separates the kitchen from the living space.

I glide across the stained finished cement floor and to my right is an old bar cart. On the top shelf is a few snifters with a bottle of bourbon half full.

The bottom shelf is scattered with rolled up blueprints. One of them is labeled "New Building Design For Brown County: SR46 Nashville, Indiana."

My mind whispers, "Ahh, that makes sense. This is why the design of this space is tasteful."

To my left is a twin size bed paired with a mantlepiece topped with a stack of books. I notice The Last Lecture, and Courage: The Joy of Living Dangerously. 

I nod to myself with an agreeable stance on his subdued choice of literature.

After we consume the studio with our eyes, we decide to go walk downtown and grab a coffee.

The proximity of our studio offers a far more eclectic experience than I anticipated in the midwest. We're a five minute walk to Indiana University.

Old homes with mature trees line the streets. You can taste the history.

However, the humans that populate the anachronistic habitat throws us off.

We walk by a pair of young men. One white. One from the middle east. From a distance we can tell they are engaged in a purposeful conversation. Then, as they brush by we realize they are speaking in Spanish - fluently.

We take a left on Atwater avenue. Across the street I notice a white woman pushing a stroller with one hand and holding the hand of a small human in the other - both of the children are black.

Third street arrives, and we take a right to cross the street. A group of Asian students are crossing the street in the opposite direction and all of them are talking at once creating a hum of vibration. But all I could notice was that one girl was rocking some yoga pants and a pair of Shawn Kemp Reebok Kamikaze's.

We haven't touched downtown yet, and my senses are overloaded.

The street slopes down and spills us into third street village. It looks like it was once a quiet little area where a few families raised their young ones. Today, the structures of the dwellings remain, but their purpose is different.

These cottages are now small businesses serving the local community. I take a slow, deliberate 360 view at where I'm at and absorb the experience.

I'm in Indiana - the midwest.

And yet, I'm looking at a Korean restaurant, a Turkish restaurant, a Thai restaurant, an Italian restaurant, a vegan friendly restaurant, an Indian restaurant, a French restaurant, a Chinese restaurant, an Afghan restaurant, and a sushi joint.

What?

I'm surprised and thrilled.  The feeling was akin to submitting a test to your professor expecting a D+ in return - then the next day you find out you scored 81 out of 100.

After we soak up the diversity we hadn't prepared for, we cracked open the door to our original destination thanks to yelp: Soma Coffee House.

The place is funky. There are Christmas lights inside and an old TV box houses a fish tank. The gal who takes our order has an asymmetrical haircut that only a few people can pull off and she's one of them.  Her smile is welcoming.

"Two cold brews please."

With 12 ounces of gelid bean juice in our possession, we head out ready to relax, but engage with each other. An outdoor patio welcomes us and we decide to park ourselves for a moment.

We find a table, but it only has one chair. I look around to grab another, and a gentlemen to my left notices.

Without hesitation, he pulls a chair from his own table and offers it up to us.

"Oh, thank you," I say.

"Sure," he replies with a casual, but genuine posture.

"Whatya' got there?  The cold brew," he asks?

"Yep."

He nods affably and responds, "It's the best in town."

This man too, isn't a physical representation of what I expected from a midwest state. He's wearing a farm hat that is stylishly aged. His scruff is a shade of gray that displays he has some stories to tell. He's wearing multi-colored beaded bracelets.

"This is our first time here and the first thing we like to do when we visit any place is to try their coffee," we say.

"Oh, really? Where y'all from?"

"Southern California."

"I've tasted California before. It was great, but not for me. I've been around. I was born in Brazil and bounced all around the U.S. - hustling to make things work. I've been here (Indiana), for 20 years and I've found my simple truth."

At this point, I lean into the conversation. I have a sense that this guy has a bag full of gems waiting to be discovered. 

"What does simple truth mean to you?" I ask.

"I can have a life here and live by the essentials. I live on a lake and I get to sail - something I love to do. I also have a passion for food and I can get to downtown (he lifts his hands in the air opened palmed while he looks around) and experience a great culinary scene in 10 minutes. Brown County is something out of a movie in the fall. Monroe Lake offers an escape from the Summer's heat. In the winter when it snows, I chop wood, tend a fire and stay-in, but I like that. I'm also starting a farm-table restaurant. For me, this place offers me the life I was always looking for. This is my simple truth."

All I could say was, "Wow. That's great."

But I knew I had more in me - the words weren't formed yet. This is why I'm writing about it.

After he briefed us on the town of Bloomington, suggested a hole in the wall Thai food restaurant for dinner, and shared a few ideas about his farm-to-table concept, he got up and said, "I think you'll really like Bloomington. Enjoy yourselves. I'm off to the sauna."

Jeff had found his simple truth. His posture suggested that it didn't happen by accident though. He had swung for the fences several times, and missed, before he connected.

We want our own flavor of simple truth - but we also want it to drop into our laps. We expect it to show up similar to how a pizza arrives at our door on Saturday night.

Jeff, is a real-time example that displays that finding your simple truth doesn't work that way most of the time. It took effort to find his simple truth - and it happened to be in the state of Indiana.

Our encounter with Jeff was a glimpse of something we have been searching for ourselves as a family - finding our own simple truth.

A life lived with intentional margin. A life not absent of work, but a life fueled by service. A life that supports creativity and connectivity. A life that lets us breathe.

Visiting Bloomington, Indiana was a step towards that life. Meeting Jeff and experiencing a small town with big city amenities tucked away in one of the most scenic pockets of the country inched us closer to our own simple truth.

Maybe one day, I'll be drinking a nitro cold brew under the midwest sky and unhesitantly pull up a chair for someone visiting the town of Bloomington and ask them, "Whatya' got there. The cold brew?"