Some of My Favorites

Here are some of my favorite things:

  • Walking in the woods, taking lousy photographs along the way. My specialty is close-ups. Occasionally I aim the camera into the sunlight, with trees or other objects filtering the light. Direct-sunlight pictures are a sure-fire way to impress your friends, even if you have absolutely no ability as a photographer. I’m glad it pleases them, but it’s all the work of the sun, not of any craft on my part.
  • In said woods, sitting on a rock and recording the sounds. I usually do this by starting a video recording, and pointing the camera in a big arc. All I really want is the sounds that are going on in the woods; the circular view is just to make it resemble a video, rather than a mistake. (“Did he accidentally switch it on record? Is he livestreaming??”) More often than not, I don’t post the result on social media. Frequently I don’t even listen to the thing. But still, it’s valuable, because the act of recording makes me aware of those sounds. So much technology is about the person using the tech; the gizmo is just a tool. It’s easy to forget that.
  • The first cup of coffee of the day.
  • Carrying that very last shovelful of wet, sticky snow from the driveway. Or, that last chunk of lawn that needs to be cut. It reminds me of when I was in my twenties, working for a guy named Jim Terpstra, an old Dutchman who did painting and paperhanging in Bergen County, New Jersey. He used wooden ladders and mixed his own paint, giving his own version of native wit and wisdom along the way. Occasionally he’d enlist me to help him paint the shutters for a house. It was a pretty labor-intensive task. As he removed each shutter, he’d carefully mark it with a Roman numeral on the edge with a chisel, so he could get the right shutter back on the right hinge. Shutters back in the day were hand made, and there were minor variations in each. We stacked them all up in the garage, set up sawhorses and set the first one on top, first dry-brushing it to remove the cobwebs and dirt, then painting inner edges, top, and outer edges. My part was to paint the opposite edge, so he didn’t have to move the shutter around. The wonder of it was that he’d get all the edges except those that were on my side, lay in the top panels and gingerbread, in the time that it took me to do my two edges. Working as a team, we blazed through the pile quickly. Then, finally the boss would pick up a shutter and say, “That’s the one I was looking for.” Which one was that? I’d ask, and he’d say, “The last one.” So not only do I experience satisfaction along with the tiredness, when I carefully carry that last heavy hunk of sloppy, wet snow, teetering on the snow shovel. If you are reading this in fall or summer, imagine me mowing the grass instead. I guess I should mention here that I tend to write pieces like this, then let them sit for a while, in hopes that they will improve with time. Generally, this doesn’t work, and I have to edit it like everybody else.
  • Writing blog posts like this one.
  • Gazing up at the large oak tree in front my house, covered in wet, sticky snow. I look up at this noble giant, and think, ‘You’ve seen owners come and go, and still you’re here, just steadily thriving and growing.’
  • Sharing music with friends. On Saturday we sang a few songs for the folks who showed up at our housewarming party.
  • Falling asleep. Usually I read a book on my Kindle, and usually I don’t drop the Kindle on my face as I get sleepy. My wife can’t understand how I do that. If she starts reading in bed, she’ll be reading till 2:30 a.m. I’m lucky to get through two pages.

O sleep, it is a gentle thing
Belov’d from pole to pole!
To Mary-queen the praise be yeven
She sent the gentle sleep from heaven
That slid into my soul.

Rime of the Ancyent Marinere by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

  • Being hungry, and having food. Food in itself is not necessarily a sensual delight, because it goes hand in hand with hunger. Having exactly the food you crave, and eating it, Cookie Monster style, mum mum, that is a perfect combination. And being hungry without food to satisfy it is not much fun at all. I’d extend that to other types of hunger, like:
    • loneliness–>company;
    • boredom–>something fun to do;
    • noise and chaos–>silence.