I’ve been tagged. At least I didn’t wake up with a big, unfashionable GPS-locator collar around my neck. Those are soooo last season.
1.) Driving in the country at night and looking at the lights in houses far away, or riding my bike through small town streets after almost everyone has gone to bed. There is something so still and peaceful about moving through darkness with the stars overhead, and breathing in night air, which is magical in a way daytime air can’t be. That feeling is good all by itself, but then add to it the sight of those small household lights, beacons of civilization trying to cast back chaos and uncertainty.
A porch light left on for someone coming home late. A bare bulb in a barn, providing just enough light to do the last of the chores. The light over the kitchen sink, illuminating someone doing dishes or getting up from bed for a drink of water. My grandfather once quietly suggested that I ought to prefer the pleasure of being inside those circles of light at night, instead of looking in at them, but he never refused to take me driving when I asked.
2.) Remembering completely ridiculous family stories with my sisters. Like the time my dad convinced us to go rafting through the storm drainage system*. Or family vacations where everything went wonderfully wrong–collapsed tents, my mother wedged into a too-small sleeping berth, shoes sucked off my sister’s foot by a mud pool at Yellowstone. Or the way my grandmother punished my grandfather by making him rearrange the furniture every week. He only ever had two responses: “Goddamnit, June!” and “Yes, dear.”
3.) Animals. Cats, dogs, cardinals, lizards, squirrels, rabbits. It doesn’t have to be an exotic animal for me to be willing to watch it for hours. My cats in particular make me happy. Flanny yodels. Even when she wants nothing, needs nothing, she likes to sit around and yowl for her own amusement. Sippy is engaged in hydrological experiments. To keep her occupied all you have to do is turn on a faucet or take a shower.
4.) Friday Lunch with my two best friends. Moving to live in the same town as them has been wonderful and the best perk is Friday Lunch, which is a bit of a ritual now. We go to our favorite little cafe, have coffee and our “usual.” We go there so often we have a usual, so that the waiters are surprised if we order something different. Some weeks, when I’m depressed or stressed, Friday Lunch is the only thing that gets me through the week.
5.) The way a good, familiar book is like a friend. You can rely on it to say the same thing every time, even if you come to it with a different state of mind. For example, when I feel lonely, I reread Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Tombs of Atuan, to remind myself what loneliness is. When I have the flu or other death-dealing illness, I like to reread Stephen King’s The Stand. (Perverse, I know.) When I feel disconnected from the world, I reread Anthony Trollope’s The Way We Live Now, and sigh with relief for Paul and Hetta, and break my heart again for little unloved Marie Melmotte, who was willing to suffer anything for love. Damn you, Felix! Damn you!
6.) Feedback on my writing. I’ve spent so much of my writing life engaged in furtive scribbling that any and all feedback makes me happy. Even if someone dislikes a story at least I know they’ve read it and reacted to it. To have a sense of dialog, rather than a feeling of speaking to an empty room, that always makes me happy.
*How could bring I this up without describing it? I couldn’t.
My dad is a trouble-maker. Yes, he really convinced us to raft down the storm drains. This was in the summer, when I was maybe 11, and my other sisters were 10, 12, and 14. (Our oldest sister was 16 and too cool for it.) We’d had a HUGE rainstorm, the kind of thing that happens in southwest Kansas, where average rainfall is maybe 10 inches. It’s not rare for 5 of that to fall all at once, and the land is so flat there’s no natural drainage, so our hometown had big storm drains to deal with it. After the storm they were probably running 4 feet deep. Dad came home over lunch and said, “Hey, girlies, I’ve got an idea…”
He got out the rubber raft, helped us air it up, and went back to work. We went in pairs, rafting through about three miles of storm drains and then out of town into the county pond. The other pair drove our crappy Subaru out to the pond to pick the rafters up. Then we drove back–holding the raft to the roof of the car with our arms out the car windows–to the beginning and swapped.
When Mom came home and found out…she was furious. She made us get tetanus shots. And my oldest sister was furious, because I’d worn her junky lawn-mowing shoes to raft in. On the second trip to the pond, we’d driven into a rut and torn the muffler on the Subie loose. The only recourse: I crawled under the car and used her shoelaces to tie the muffler back on.