An Exhaustive List of What Makes Me Happy and What Inspires Me:
1. My kid in an exuberant mood. He’s just such a firecracker- and a creative thinker and burgeoning philosopher.
2. Talking politics and philosophy and gossip into the wee hours with Philip over beer. Been doing it for almost 18 years now.
3. Penny, Pippa, and Chick. Every single day they make us happy we have them. Though I wish my dog barked less, we still love her.
4. Chickens. Chickens are funny, curious, pretty, and useful. More than I can say about a lot of people.
5. My mom. She’s so funny, creative, warm, and I love having her around.
6. Mahatma Gandhi. The dude was human and as such I’m sure his farts smelled like everyone else’s but nothing, NOTHING can take away from what he accomplished in his life. Even if you reduce his greatness in half he is still greater than any other human I’ve read about. He showed that non-violence can bring oppressors to their knees. He showed that it takes a lot more willingness to be knocked down and a shitload more bravery to win without violence than it does to wield weapons against your enemy. No soldier even remotely compares in bravery to Mahatma and all the people who took the blows but refused to fight back with violence. Damn, I love him.
7. Roses. I love them all, but especially the antique ones and the ones with strong scent. I love rosehips too and I even love the rose bushes when they’re stripped bare in winter. All-time favorites: Frederick Mistral, Napoleon’s Hat, Gold Medal, Peter Mayle, Abraham D’Arby, Cottage Rose, Mm Isaac Pereire, Variegata di Bologna, Kaiserin Friedrich, Honor, New Dawn, and Jardin de Bagatelle.
8. Fruit trees. They make me happy-there are few trees that cost so little to plant and give so much over such a long period of time. It isn’t just the fruit- it’s the beautiful blossoms in the springtime that bust out and dazzle the cold grey spring! It is a crime that so many people let all the fruit on their fruit trees rot and then call them nuisances. It’s FOOD. People in this country are starving and other people are letting fruit drop and rot and then go to the grocery store and effing BUY fruit. If you don’t want your fruit, pick it and donate it to your local food bank. Or give it to me. I’ll can it or dry it and maybe if you’re lucky I’ll share your own bounty with your lazy ass. (Old people are excepted from this tirade as well as people with bad backs and other infirmities that make harvesting and preserving fruit painful or impossible.)
9. Coffee. I look forward to it every morning. It’s 1/3 caffeine strength and gives complete satisfaction. I drink it black at home, no sugar. Elsewhere, if I’m suspicious of the strength or flavor of the coffee I often add half and half or milk. Sometimes I go to sleep only because the sooner I go to sleep the sooner I can wake up and have coffee. I only like to drink it up to about noon.
10. Tea. Black tea. Black strong British tea: PG Tips to be precise. It is heavenly! My coffee price just went up a dollar per pound so I’m thinking it’s time to order some decaf PG Tips online and start drinking tea every morning instead of coffee. Black tea I ALWAYS drink with milk and sugar.
11. Music. I believe that part of what redeems humans from their status as largest virus ever to attack earth is their ability to make and play music. All music. Even music I don’t like. It’s a higher form of communication, in my opinion, than plain speech. It’s poetry in notes, in frequency, and numbered intervals that can be rearranged in infinite combinations to express things we can’t otherwise express.
12. Listening to music LOUDLY and ALONE. I love to blast the hell out of music when no one is around. I love to blast it so loud the rafters shake. I have a strong desire to feel music in my marrow, not just hear it with my ears. I don’t do this often but it brings me 100% complete giddy joy and I never fail to feel better after belting out some of my favorite songs or even just letting Opera (which I can’t belt out) reach every particle of my bones while I cook.
13. Sharing my pantry with friends. Or my fabric stash. Or anything I have that I feel abundant in. There are a lot of things I’m not generous with (my time, phone calls to friends, my avocados) but if you come over there’s a good chance I’ll give you something I’ve canned or frozen or dried. It makes me feel good. And for the record it represents a lot of my time and my desire to nourish others as well as myself.
14. Writing. Not writing is not an option. Sometimes writing is hard and sometimes it’s a lot of work, but there is no minute of my life that has passed since I started writing that I have doubted I was supposed to be doing it. For many years I professionally pursued design because it’s generally a lot more stable and well paying than writing but never in that time did I stop writing. There are times when I have to recharge and write less but it is always to replenish the words. When I know I’ve written something worthy it feels as though all the blood in my body was buzzing with excitement.
15. Cheese. I’d like to pretend I don’t care about cheese but since I’m wearing a lot of it on my hips I can’t get away with it. I love cheese. It makes me happy. Although I will be forcing more moderation on myself this coming year, I lost 40 lbs of baby-weight while still eating cheese. I just made sure I ate 2 ounces at a time instead of 6!
16. The smell of wild herbs on the hot summer air. In California it’s a dry hot sharp sage scent, here in Oregon it’s a little softer and there’s something more, I’m not sure what it is. Some day I’ll know.
17. Snow. It never ceases to make me happy, happy in an unhinged way- like I could take flight with no wings. I love the smell of it, the sound of it falling, the blue and the sparkle and the frozen hand it clamps down on everything. I love the way it makes everyone STOP.
18. My supportive friends, both online and off. I am very fortunate in my friends. I’m not an easy person to know, I’m about as prickly as a wart-hog and as bullish, but those people with the patience to know what is underneath the tough skin, the grouchy exterior, are treasures to me.
19. Books. Magic. It is self discipline that prevents me from being a bibliophile. I love the smell of them and I love the way they take you away without having to move. All time favorite authors: Mary Stewart, Georgette Heyer, Dorothy L. Sayers, Elizabeth George, Charlotte Bronte, Kurt Vonnegut, J.D. Salinger, Anne Lamott, David Sedaris, Jane Austen, Pablo Neruda, Emily Dickinson, Margaret Atwood, Michael Connelly, Agatha Christie, Tara Sita (as yet unpublished).
20. Cooking. Home cooking trumps all other cooking if you don’t cook your food in the microwave or boil everything to death. Cooking is a joy. It is the ultimate in self nourishment as well as nourishing others. Plus it’s fun.
21. Preserving food. Incredible science, amazing advancement of civilization, an amazing skill to possess. There are few things I do around my house that make me feel quite as industrious and satisfied as putting up a bunch of food for the winter.
22. Riding bicycles with Max. We have the best conversations while riding our bikes to Kung Fu.
23. Going out to dinner with Philip and Max. From the time Max was born until one year ago this was not very fun, it was an exercise in how to keep Max from noticing the food all around him that grosses him out, keeping him from jumping off the chandeliers, and finding one thing he can eat. Suddenly he didn’t need to be entertained, he just started enjoying talking to his parents and though he doesn’t eat regular food out we’ve found what works. I now look forward to this outing with my guys every single week. We laugh a ton and connect with each other, enjoying our quirky special needs unit.
24. Reading magazines. I love them. I will always love them. I don’t buy them very often now. I almost never buy the gossip rags any more and only allow myself to buy the fashion mags every couple of months at most. I still get a thrill opening a fresh magazine.
25. The smell of citrus blossoms. Nothing is quite as thick and exotic and promising- completely wildly at odds with the actual fruits which also smell and taste divine but are sharp, fresh, cooling, spunky, and bright.
26. Rain. We get lots of it and I never get tired of it. It’s inconvenient sometimes but it’s my perfect weather. I like some variation of course, some sunshine (I only need a little bit) and snow are all good too. But rain, rain I absolutely love.
27. Happy endings. I’m not a sap. I’m not really a softie. I don’t love a gushy-ass romance and I don’t love those kind of shows that only exist to be played during Christmas so everyone can “feel good”. However, I like the murderer to always get caught. I want the couple to always work their shit out. I want them to get together and if I read a book in which a couple stupidly splits up over ridiculous reasons I am left with a very bad taste in my mouth. That’s what real people do. I want my fiction to be mostly realistic and have some grit and substance but I see no reason why I can’t at least see a couple get through hard times. Give me some hope. Give me a little bone of happy to chew on.
28. Words. I derive a lot of happiness from words. I like to chew on them. I like to say them. I like to hate them. I like to try new ones and rediscover old ones. I like to hear people use surprising ones. They’re like clothes for the mind. I have a pretty big wardrobe of them but am always looking to add more to my closet. Plus, they’re free.
29. Sewing. I have always had a love/hate relationship with sewing. When it goes well it can make you feel like a million dollars and reassures you that you’ll always have something to wear even if the garment industry crumbles. It also means you can probably make your own tent if you have to. Clothes and shelter are things most people need. Being able to provide yourself with these things if necessary is deeply satisfying.
30. Walking. I love walking. I don’t do much of it here. This isn’t a town I’ve been inspired to walk in much. I don’t know why. I walked a lot everywhere else I’ve lived. I walk fast naturally. It clears my head. I especially love walking with my headphones on so I can see everything heightened by my personal soundtrack. People are prettier when you can’t hear them talking.
31. Pens. I’ve had a long list of favorites over the years. I haven’t used anything besides Papermate medium tip felt pens in black for over 5 years. Writing with any other pen makes me uncomfortable.
32. Paper. An obsession of mine. I only use one kind of notebook and haven’t used any others except in emergency (can’t find the ones I use) for over ten years. Right now I can’t find them and I’ve been using a substitute and I’m preparing to buy a huge bulk order of them. It’s cheaper that way anyway.
33. Poppies. California poppies are wonderful but I’ve now come to love the Oriental ones too and my favorites are a mix of Shirley poppies. Gorgeous! When I see the weird alien looking pods swell up in the spring I can’t help but feel happy with anticipation and then when they are in full bloom I find myself staring at them from my second story office window because they are irresistible.
34. Herbs. I love herbs. I love cooking with them. I love drinking them in teas. I love growing them, smelling them, and making remedies out of them. A garden with no herbs is missing its strength and protection. The only thing I don’t do with herbs is smoke them. I leave that to others. Thyme, rosemary, sage, parsley, arnica, comfrey, these are some essentials.
35. Farmer’s markets. I love them. I love how each one has its own distinct flavor of people and produce and crafts. Shopping for my produce from the farmers who grew them adds an extra dimension of enjoyment both to cooking with them and eating them.
36. Grocery shopping. I’ve always loved it. I hate shopping for shoes or clothes or really anything besides grocery shopping. The isles offer limitless possibilities and there are strange and wonderful (and strange and creepy) things to discover down those long isles of packaging. Plus the people watching is pretty great as well.
37. Hot soaks in the tub. I haven’t done this for years because I’ve had nothing but stupid bathtubs for years that were too shallow for a good soak. I love to add herbs to a bath, oils, and bath bombs. I don’t usually soak for long because I like them too hot to stay in them long. It’s very relaxing to soak.
There’s more. There’s always more. I’m tired. The day is coming to a close. Perhaps I’ll add to it or just make a second list when I have the time and inclination. I just thought I should check to make sure that lots of things still inspire me and make me happy. I’m pretty sure I could double the list given a little more time.