Apple peelings, like thin green ribbons, looped in a heap. Cubes of cold butter sat askew on the cutting board, a knife lay close for slicing them into chunks. Measuring cups from big to small, in a jangle with the measuring spoons, were pushed off to the side, but still handy.

Cinnamon and nutmeg, salt, and of course flour and sugar, too, were dusted intentionally – and not – across the dining table we’d commandeered as our work surface. Rolling pins, the dough bowl, and a pastry blender passed back and forth as easily as the conversation.

Two mamas in an afternoon with her kids, my kids, plus a couple extra, for words, for play, for messes, and for apple pies. While mamas peeled, sliced, stirred, rolled, and baked, bundled boys headed out the door and into the snow, to return later red-cheeked and frosted, the ebb and flow of a winter’s tide.

And the toddler girl and the young dog played babies inside, each one sure of which was whose, and the dog’s baby wasn’t to have a nap like the girl’s baby was, even if there was a blanket to cover him with.

Spiced pastry goodness met the hot oven, where the crusts flaked, the juices bubbled, and the steam escaped.

And I thought about living well.

I thought back to our letting go of the trying hard, the striving, the achieving. I thought about our letting go of the puffed up dream of life.

I thought about the beginnings of our longing for authentic. I thought of the rest and recalibration and the finding of ourselves.

I thought about the new life intention, the simple goals, and the grounded effort and gritty hard work that it would take to reach them.

I remembered wondering how we were going to get there from here.

What I know now is that living well was already there. It breathes through each of our days; the moments are full of its respiration. For living well isn’t for when the stars are aligned, when the ship comes in, when we get the house that’s bigger, or the house that’s smaller, or the house that’s ours.

It’s not for when we’ve ‘arrived’ at simplicity. It’s for right now, in this imperfect place, in this odd moment, in this insufficient strand of time.

In both the exquisitely beautiful and the humbly mundane, living well is there for the ones who see. When boys tramp in from winter, leaving their snow-muddy gear in a heap in front of the door to melt a puddle across the floor, when the windows are dirty, when plans go south, when chaos settles in to stay, living well remains – a golden striation embedded within the layers of life.

Discover it. Mine it. Hold it close and don’t let go.

Pick up the apple in one hand, the paring knife in the other, and let the green ribbons loop in a heap.