A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Ten Simple Pleasures

In life we tend to remember the big events, the unique experiences which have given us a huge dose of pleasure, satisfaction and fulfilment: a special holiday, perhaps, or a wedding, a concert, a long trek we've done, an object we've saved for and finally been able to buy, the completion of a painting, poem or piece of music, taking a motor bike to bits then putting it back together again. Whatever.

But it strikes me that these are relatively rare happenings — intensely felt, to be sure, but ultimately fleeting and far-flung pleasures. I think we'd be much more content if we were aware of the smaller, commoner joys in life, those daily routines and familiarities which are so regular we tend almost to ignore them, brushing them aside and forgetting it's they that are life's real and lasting delights. If we focused on them, were mindful of them, I'm sure our seemingly ordinary lives would be all the richer. Virginia Woolf put her finger on it when she described in one of her essays the gentle thrills of quite mundane activities, such as posting a letter.

So, off the top of my head, here's a list of my own ten simple, unassuming indulgences. Your own lists would be most welcome (don't think too much about it — be spontaneous!).

1. The first cup of coffee of the day (with freshly ground coffee beans).
2. The morning bath or shower (cleansing, invigorating, renewing).
3. Reading the Saturday Guardian (the only newspaper I generally read).
4. A slightly runny boiled egg for breakfast with a slice of hot buttered toast and Marmite.
5. Walking round the village.
6. Travelling by bus or train to the nearest town (I like driving less and less, having driven 40,000 miles a year for nearly 30 years).
7. The sound of purring cats and wind chimes.
8. The scent of lavender and incense sticks.
9. Consciously deciding to enjoy the day whatever the weather; going out in all weathers, suitably dressed.
10. Reading in bed. Experiencing the peace, silence and newness of dawn.

(Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.) 


George said...

1. Seeing the first light break through the windows.
2. Taking a hot shower, which cleanses the soul as much as the body.
3. Greeting my affectionate dog, Derry.
4. Having a cup of coffee in absolute stillness with Derry curled up next to me.
5. Going for some kind of walk.
6. Finding a great lunch, preferably a well-made Greek salad.
7. Finding a small nugget of wisdom in the day's experience (often from the blogs I read).
8. Working out at my local "Y."
9. Having a double-shot latte in the afternoon, preferably with an oatmeal raisin cookie.
10. Reading before bedtime, and then embracing the dark that brings welcomed rest.

Goethe's list was shorter, but it's always made a great deal of sense to me: "A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul."

The Solitary Walker said...

Lovely, George! I'm with you on the oatmeal raisin cookie, or biscuit as we say over here!

The Weaver of Grass said...

I shall now go away and think about this.

The Solitary Walker said...

Spontaneous, Pat!

am said...

1. Going out on my porch before dawn to breathe the fresh air.
2. Drinking water.
3. Listening to music and playing music.
4. Talking with friends.
5. Walking with friends.
6. Reading books and blogs.
7. Rocking sleeping babies.
8. Looking at art work.
9. Growing flowers from seed on my porch.
10. Writing my dreams down.

Thank you for this suggestion (-:

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for joining in, Am. Beautiful pleasures! I love the 'drinking water' one.

Cris M said...

1- Opening my eyes and the first look of the day thru my bedroom window (which has no curtains).
2- Taking a hot shower.
3- The moment I am heating the water for my mate, preparing my mate pot filling it with yerba mate, and making some bread toasts.
4- The moment all the above is ready and I sit at the table to have my breakfast.
5- Going out of my building and noticing the morning breeze for the first time on the day.
6- Walking across the park that separates the underground from my office.
7- Going out from work, feeling the afternoon breeze and normally looking at the afternoon/evening sky.
8- Walking across the park that separates my office from the underground.
(As I am learning to be more mindful, I enjoy and feel amazed of the differences between 5 and 7, and 6 and 8)
9- My afternoon mate. (Mate is a whole ritual in Argentinians life!)
10- Writing down my "gratitude lines" about the day.

Wow! It is nice to notice I would be able to add some more than 10! Thank you for the challenge and the opportunity to think about this.
Many hugs,
Cris M

Dominic Rivron said...

Number three... Did you by any chance read the article on listicles on the last page of the Review this week?

My ten:
1. Looking forward to eating porridge.
2. Eating porridge.
3. The weekly bath.
4. Hearing weird noises on shortwave radios.
5. Stepping outside on starry nights.
6. Reading the Saturday Guardian Review.
7. Playing scales.
8. Buttered toast and marmalade.
9. Listening to music on a tinny little transistor radio I bought not long ago (the medium is the message).
10. Sitting with Sinbad (the cat).

Karen says:
1. Good coffee.
2. Cream scones.
3. Soaking in the bath.
4. Sitting out on sunny days.
5. Cuddling my cats.
6. Meeting hedgehogs.
7. Taking photographs.
8. Listening to the beck at the foot of the garden.
9. Gentle walks.
10.Peace and quiet.

Incidentally, with regard to the Saturday Guardian am I the only person who gets annoyed reading Will Self? Annoyed, because I usually find what he says really interesting - when I've decoded it! The guy has a great mind. If only he'd write in plain, rather than erudite, English. It's always as if his ambition is to make it into PE's Pseud's Corner. I mean, I'm pretty sure I'm not "a fellow-traveller on the neocons' coach trip to the rapturous intersection of medieval chiliasm and Fukuyama's neoliberal end-point" but I'm blowed if I know what one is.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks so much for taking part, Cris M!

11. Licking lips and remembering the taste of that porridge?

Two for the price of one here, Dominic!

As for Will Self, I've never been able to get on with his novels, but perhaps I haven't tried hard enough. Many of his articles in the Guardian annoy me too — with their verbosity and showy erudition. (He's also so damn knowledgeable and intelligent, I suppose I'm a little jealous.) And he seems to have something in there more or less every week.

Dominic Rivron said...

I wouldn't be jealous. I've come to the conclusion that a show of erudition is a show of weakness, not strength. I've decided that if a paragraph of prose is incomprehensible on second reading (max) it's the prose that's badly written - not me that's stupid.

pilgrimpace said...

excellent! Off the top of my head:

1. the smell of grass after rain
2. a strong cup of tea after a long walk
3. followed by a pint of good bitter
4. picking up an egg that is still warm
5. a fishfinger sandwich
6. being up early when the house is quiet
7. a surprise packet in the post
8. Hail Smiling Morn
9. rubbing Grangers Wax into my boots
10. waiting to listen to the Ashes on Radio Four

The Solitary Walker said...

I don't suppose I'm really jealous, Dominic, as I tried to put jealousy and envy behind me a long time ago…


… but sometimes it seeps out and catches you unawares!

The Solitary Walker said...

Andy (Pilgrimpace) — I just LOVE these! Oh, that smell of grass after rain...

Sabine said...

Ten seems quite overwhelming but here goes from the top of my head:

1. First cup of hot milky black tea in the morning.
2. Sleeping with the windows wide open.
3. The feeling of freshly filed/cut fingernails.
4. The rustling noise of the newspaper.
5. Arriving on top of that hill I have to cycle up on my way to work.
6. The sound of the BBC world service discussion coming from the kitchen when R is cooking.
7. Moonlight shining on the silent kitchen floor tiles.
8. The smell of laundry dried outside.
9. Lying on the hot patio stones watching the night sky.
10. Solving the cryptic crossword puzzle.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks, Sabine. I can identify with the 'fingernails' one — it's a similar feeling when you've just had a haircut. Also with the 'windows' — I like to have a small window open even in winter.


Je n'ai pas fait ma liste des dix petits bonheurs, en t^te de laquelle, je mettrais
Me lever le matin
Pratiquer le land art
Marcher en solitaire
pour la terminer par,
Me coucher le soir, fatigué de ma journée mais heureux de m'endormir.

Pour le reste, je vais réfléchir.
Bravo pour ton blog. Amicalement.


Amanda said...

Totally with you on so many of these - lavender, wind chimes, reading in bed. I can add: That mysterious gap in the day known as twilight, full moons, walking on deserted beaches, falling stars, dark chocolate, fleece blankets, jasmine tea, hot baths (with candles), looking forward to reading before bed and anytime I am with my family.

Thanks for helping remind me of all we are grateful for.

Margaret said...

1, Almost anything on radio 4.
2, A swim after a night shift and weekly coffee with the other early morning swimmers.
3, Walking the dog, but sadly have no dog now to walk.
4, A few nights at home in my own bed.
5, A long bath with a good book. At present "The Ragged Edge of Silence" by John Francis.
6, A conversation in Welsh where I understand more than 50% of what is going on.
7, Receiving the Eucharist.
8, A phone call from my children, both away at University. The same from my Mother.
9, Spinning wool with my friends.
10,The lovely dad with his three children on the bus I often take. The children read a book about Latin and the Romans. He reads a book in English and talks to the children in Welsh.

dritanje said...

great idea solitary walker. I particularly like 'consciously deciding to enjoy the weather' and 'reading in bed'. I may come back and write a list but right now I have to go and enjoy reading in bed!

The Solitary Walker said...

Bonjour et bienvenue, Roger! Et merci de ta participation. Je me demande au fait si vous êtes familier avec l'oeuvre artistique de Richard Long et Andy Goldsworthy? Comme vous ils sont 'artistes de la terre' contemporains — en Angleterre. Goldsworthy a construit aussi des structures organiques et naturelles en Provence. J'aimais beaucoup les photos de votre 'land art', et je les trouvais très impressionnantes. Bien amicalement, Robert


The Solitary Walker said...

Amanda, ah yes… walking on deserted beaches… I like it…

And thanks Margaret for your contribution. Agree with you about R4. It's interesting how we get quite a clear picture of you, I think, just from these ten swift brushstrokes!

Hope you enjoyed your book, Dritanje...

Ruth said...

1. Getting up in the morning while it is still dark.
2. Drinking coffee from my hand thrown handleless mug in the low light of early morning (one lamp).
3. The smooth glaze of that mug and the shape of it, its warmth in my hands (is that 3 things?).
4. Walking along the Red Cedar River on my lunch hour, especially in winter.
5. Seeing the sun rise behind the meadow.
6. Reading a non-fiction book with pencil in hand.
7. Writing notes in a journal with a fine-tipped, black, rolling ball pen.
8. Chopping veggies.
9. The sound of wind chimes.
10. The smell of coffee.

There is an awful lot about coffee in this list. Hmm.

The Solitary Walker said...

Loved these, Ruth! The more I read all these warm and heartfelt responses from everyone, the more I'm convinced that the simple, daily pleasures are the best and the most rewarding.

Re. coffee: I love it! But mostly I actually drink tea (very British!). I drink countless cups of tea per day (less caffeine), but punctuate this with odd 'high spots' of coffee.

I do so like that clunky, wooden wind chime sound.

Cris M said...

It's funny... I have mate (yerba mate) down here, and while writing I felt I needed to justify the importance-close-to-ritual that having mate has in my day!

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, Cris I knew a little about mate, and how it's drunk in South America, but didn't quite realise how important a ritual it was! It's good to have these rituals and little ceremonies at certain times in the day. I haven't ever tasted mate, but I read that it's bitter, and a little like green tea, so I would probably like it. I also read that it's sometimes flavoured with mint or lemon. and that it's an antioxidant and anticarcinogen.

The Solitary Walker said...

PS I feel a blog post about tea coming on!