Sunday, April 18, 2010

10 Underrated Pleasures


The go-go techy lifestyle means we often lose touch with the simpler pleasures of life. As someone who is in the midst of launching a new business, I speak for myself more than anyone here. Maybe it's the sunny weather we've had, but over the last few days I have noticed that many of the activities I often rush through or treat as chores are actually some of the most enjoyable. Here's the list I came up with:

1. Folding laundry. Lifting warm clothing and sheets out of the dryer. Spending time to fold them with care. The fresh scent from the detergent and dryer sheets. Way underrated.

2. Chopping vegetables. Slicing into a bright radish, with its ruby outer skin and streaked white and pink flesh. The pop of the spiciness as the scent rises up. The natural, rapid pace of the knife on wood. Just about every sense is involved in this task--a real break from staring at a two-dimensional screen.

3. Feeding the cats. I talk to my cats while I put the food in the can and place it on the floor. This seems to calm them down while they wait. It gives us all time to appreciate the bond we have as pets and pet owners.

4. Watering the plants. As with the cats, I have taken to talking to my plants while watering them. (So far, they haven't answered back. Still hoping for that.) I often use water that I've just used to wash vegetables or fruit. There's a good feeling that goes with the idea of not just pouring it down into the waste sewage line.

5. Listening to the birds in my yard. The other day, we sat in awe as a tiny roseate finch belted out some scat worthy of Ella Fitzgerald. I've heard that springtime is when bird songs become more complex. This is the time of year when they need to attract a potential mate. The rest of the year, they are basically singing, "stay off my branch, buddy."

6. Reading a novel. I'm not talking business books, biographies, or anything published by the "For Dummies" or O'Reilly people. I'm talking made up stories about people who never existed. To me, the delivery mechanism isn't important. Kindle, audio book, dead tree, whatever. I know I'm in the true reading zone when my husband says something to me and I don't answer for another 15 minutes.

7. Strolling around the neighborhood. Not power walking, or hiking, or anything involving high tech footwear or pedometers. Rather, one of those languishing, pointless, late afternoon or post-dinner meanders that involves noticing architectural details on houses or a neighbor's daffodils. The other day we took one of these types of walks and stopped in front of a yellow house to admire the small amount of jigsaw trim on the porch. The man who lived across the street spotted us and began telling us a great deal about the history of that house, and the entire neighborhood.

8. Listening to slightly boring stuff on the radio. NPR is great for this. I love to semi-tune out and half listen to Noah Adams, the Car Talk guys, or-- this is the best--that really badly done quiz show, "Says You." The trick, for me, is to not really pay attention, yet not go so far away that it turns into background noise. For some reason, this has a really pacifying effect on my brain. It doesn't work with shows I really like, such as "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me."

9. Writing postcards. For my birthday this year, a friend of mine sent me a huge, honking box of what looks to be about 1000 postcards. The series was put out by writer Dave Eggers' publishing company, McSweeney's and is labeled, mystifyingly enough, "Greetings from the Ocean's Sweaty Face." At first, I was intimidated. Who would want a postcard from me? Did I even know how to write one anymore? Slowly, however I've discovered a certain facility for writing these little missives. They're kind of like extended tweets.

10. Unplugging. Don't do enough of that. But I did start a new austerity program in which I no longer keep my iPhone by my bed. I can't believe how different my mornings are. Instead of immediately checking email and Twitter, I give myself a few minutes to awaken more slowly. My mind wanders a bit, which actually leads to more creative thinking. Highly recommended. And apparently, this is how I used to live.

6 comments:

Rachel Luxemburg said...

+++ for #10. Phones are banned from my night table now & it definitely reduces stress!

Evan Dawson said...

Wonderful post. Such a nice reminder that the day-to-day banalities can offer beauty and comfort. Nice list to ponder and build upon.

Steve Masover said...

Ten thumbs up...

Dr William J McKibbin said...

Marvelous...

Sunshine said...

Thanks for the comments all! And please feel free to add yours.

Tammy Baker said...

In my top 10, watching the birds at the bird feeders out my window. I look up from my computer screen now and then and just watch. Yesterday I was treated to a Coopers Hawk who flew in and hung out about 15 feet from my nose. He would have stayed longer but the guardian squirrel chased him away.