Workplace Age Ambivalence
This Week in Elder News: 14 June 2008

Recurring Pleasures

category_bug_journal2.gif Sitting at my computer yesterday morning, some movement in the sky drew my attention and I had a revelation: I have always stopped what I’m doing to watch seagulls when they appear.

Yes, I know they are scavengers, rats with wings. But they are also, like eggs, among nature’s more perfect shapes. Particularly when they are soaring, the proportion of canted wings to their body is as esthetically pleasing as a fine piece of music.

For as long as I can remember, for most of my 67 years, seagulls have evoked in me a deep, personal satisfaction, and I wondered what else I may have enjoyed all my life, perhaps without appreciating the regular, reliable pleasure they supply even or, perhaps particularly, when life is not going well.

Don’t laugh, but peanut butter sandwiches come immediately to mind. Slathered on bread that is about halfway between Wonderbread and heavy, seven-grain organic, with (this part disgusts some people) mayonnaise – always Hellman’s (Best Foods to those of you on the west coast), it may be my favorite food. Sometimes, slices of cucumber cold from the refrigerator are a nice, crunchy addition, a counterpoint to the peanut butter’s sticky-sweet smoothness.

What else?

Silk undies. There was a rumor, back in 1987, that Robert DeNiro, in preparing for his role as Al Capone in The Untouchables, wore the same silk underwear the real-life Capone had specially made for himself. I understood.

My first pair were a gift when I was about 20 years old, and I swore after the first wearing that I would forevermore own only silk panties. Well, that was never in my budget; they are wildly expensive. But there is usually one pair in the drawer awaiting my pleasure on the next wearing.

Here’s another “don’t laugh”: the monthly satisfaction after having just paid all the bills. Twelve times a year, I get to feel renewed, up to date and balanced with the world. Even when it cleans out the bank account, there is nothing hanging over my head for awhile, and I feel unburdened.

And the cat. All cats. Big ones, little ones, wild ones and tame – if any cat can be called tame. Like seagulls and eggs, they are near perfect, not so much in shape, perhaps, as in their utter self-assurance, certain of their importance and place in the world, oblivious to others’ judgment or even interest. That they are soft and cuddly (when they are in the mood) doesn’t hurt.

It is easy to take pleasure in the bigger events – marriage, a new job, an award maybe, a birthday party, a grandchild. But it felt good to make a list of the less exciting but recurring satisfactions that I never tire of and provide a continuity through the decades. What about you?

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Rabon Saip continues with Just the Three of Us - Part 2. You can find Part 1 here.]


Ronni I smile this early morning.
You are the only other person I know of "that like me" loves peanut butter sandwiches with "Hellman's Mayonnaise"
When my children see me do this they say "how can you eat it that way"
Love it.

Ronni, when I read your post I stopped at the peanut butter sandwiches!!!
Just read the whole entry.
I get such satisfaction from the very early mornings. Dawn and looking at my new garden. To think I created this over and over again at each home.
I love my green tea in the early morning with my banana bread I have baked.
I love crisp white sheets, my leather chair with many books surrounding me.
I love the rain, sunshine and I guess just life.

Yes, mornings... The first taste of coffee..

Seeing my home when I return from a trip, smelling the familiar smells and having my river of dogs race to greet me, and begin the elaborate ritual of welcoming trip companion dog back into the pack. As the saying goes, they are not my whole life, but they make my life whole...

The ocean in all of its forms and colors. I never tire of it and never will.. I am drawn to it the way some are drawn to chocolate. It sooths me, calms me... it is my 'mind altering drug'. Feeling that Atlantic swell under the keel is like no other... Riding in slow motion...

Horses. A strange love for a seagoing soul, but they were there in my earliest memories, along with dogs. Walking into the stable and breathing in the scents that disgust those poor unfortunate denizens of the city. Walking past the stalls and being greeted by each resident, head outstretched for a scratch or a handful of crimped oats. Velvet lips nibbling greedily, while watching with those large dark eyes. Nickers and a loud exhale of warm breath... "Pick me! Pick me!!!"

Ahhhh.. I am in Vermont with my Mumma this week, and that she is still in the living years, at 93 floods me with joy!

Thanks, Ronni, for this topic. Sometimes we forget to stop and count the joys that make up our life, big or small.

I can't eat peanut butter but I used to love peanut butter spaghetti!
There is so much I love in life those things balance out the things I hate.
Cats. Stories. The ocean, especially on Cape Cod, though Crescent Beach in Maine is a good second and Reed State Park is good too. It has to smell right and not have houses packed along it.
A sip of coffee in the morning. Libraries. Libraries in the rain. Going downtown and running into people I have known for years. Friends. Pizza at our favorite pub with friends. My garden, my house. The fact that my mom is alive and went to London this year, for the first time, on her own.
The prospect of returning to France. My home town anytime. A New England summer day with blue sky and white clouds.
And cats.

A fire in a fireplace on a chilly day gives me a glow of comfort that can be found no other way.

I love, and am always overjoyed, by my first view of Pikes Peak with it's snow cap when I return home.

The first thrill when I step off of a plane in a foreign country is as exciting as a Christmas tree full of presents. The wondrous joys are still ahead of me.

And, at the age of 83, being able to get out of bed may not be one of my biggest thrills, but it's pure pleasure to know I have another day on the glorious earth.

Peanut butter and mayo -- yum!!!!

I, too, get a small rush from paying the bills each month.

Sunny mornings. Any day that starts with sunshine is a good day -- even in winter.

Comments on my blog. Even after two years, I'm still astounded that people actually read it!

An ice cream cone on a hot summer day.

I'll think of a couple dozen more after I hit 'post'! :-)

Breakfast. Green tea. The first glimpse of the ocean after I have been out of sight of it for a while. Panda licorice. The Great Spotted Woodpecker on the peanut feeder. The smell of cinnamon basil. Mangoes (yes, most of all, mangoes). The special, satisfying 'click' that my camera makes when I slide the cover back from the lens. Swimming in clear water. Sunshine. Our woodstove on a winter evening. Barbara Kingsolver's books. Hot ciabatta with olive oil ... oh there are so many sensory pleasures. And I seem to appreciate them more and more, the older I get.

Two new things we have in common! No. 1 - I love watching and hearing seagulls! Always have. I assume it’s because it means I’m near the sea and all the wonderful things that implies. We can’t see the sea from our house here in Sweden, but I often hear and see seagulls flying about. No. 2 - I also love a peanut butter sandwich (although ideally it would be accompanied by Miracle Whip and bananas). As for other recurring satisfactions, I’ll have to think about it. Don’t have time now. You made me hungry.

The joke in my family is when I die, they will bury me with a jar of Hellman’s mayonnaise. It’s rare for me to get through the day without having it on some part of what I eat. When watching television, I like sitting with a bag of hard sourdough pretzels and a large jar of Hellman’s for dipping. My husband is a Miracle Whip fan, so the mayo is all mine. I enjoy peanut butter (Crazy Richard) sandwiches and now you’ve given me something new to try. Two favorites. How can it miss?

Cats—What’s not to love? I’m not sure I’ve ever been without one. These days I talk to mine more than ever (when she’s in the mood to listen, of course). I think besides their sheer beauty, it’s their seemingly indifference to humans that I admire most.

Bath towels—rough and stiff after they’ve been dried out in the sun.

Being in a library. Walking around NYC (even in the heat this past Saturday). Being home alone with no place to go and nothing to do!
Seeing “The Good Earth” on television last night…My all time favorite book and author, Pearl Buck.

What a neat article. I also love to watch seagulls. While I don't much care for peanut butter, I have something I have liked that involves mayonnaise but with sweet pickles. A sweet pickle sandwich with just mayo. I know it's not healthy but I sometimes think when I do add meat, it's only to make it look more normal. I also wear silk panties and buy mine from Winter Silk online which is still more than most would cost but they offer so many styles and I figured they last quite awhile; so I justify it. Natural fiber too...

Otherwise, building a fire in the fireplace, sitting watching the rain fall when it's warm enough to have the doors open, a really good old movie that I have seen dozens of times but am enjoying once more, petting a cat, watching the sky with some good clouds building up as it changes constantly. As I said great post for just thinking and it often is the little things that bring the most pleasure

Stew. A mice beef stew that has been hours in the making. I, too, love seagulls. In fact, I'm all of a sudden sad because it has been a long time since I've seen them winging, and heard their cry.

But, most of all, summer twilight. And lying in bed at that time, on ironed sheets (it has been a long time), listening to the night birds and crickets.

The sound of splashing water, particularly my little fountain in the backyard.

The light and the skies of NM especially late afternoon.

Long long tub baths with a good book and some wine - a lovely way to pass 2-3 hours.

Good food with good friends who make sure to order something different to share.

Hot hard boiled egg sandwiches with lots of salt and mayo.

Hugging - it's an art I'm perfecting.

The smell of babies.

My orange tabby triplets - any cat really.(Carmel just came in for a short massage).

Getting a massage.

Coming home.

A far horizon - a long vista.

And harmony. I can't hear it without joining in even when it's not in my key.

Reading you, Ms.Ronni B. especially posts like this that invite us to open up to each other on a different level.

I love simple pleasures. Thanks for the reminder to notice and to each for sharing. I smiled through the whole posting and will be back to see what others add.

Nice post----I gave up trying to understand the policies of the Federal Reserve,----I recently got a dog--mixed breed mostly Dachsuond---we go for a walk in the park every morning,before the hot Texas sun makes it too unpleasant,stop for breakfast of eggs and great coffee.Layla gets free biscuits ---and we head home.What a way to start the day.

Colorado blue sky, white daisies, anything in the air from hummingbird to eagle to 747, the aroma of leather and coffee, the first tart bite of lemon pie, scampering quail, hopping bunnies, children laughing, smiles, live music.

Our collie running, playing, doing anything
our cats, whatever they do
owls and hawks(better chance of seeing hawks)
a real thrill- falconry,when the hawk is coming in to land on my wrist
a just cleaned house - the "monkey off my back" for awhile!
warm air with the delicious smell of roses
birds at our feeder
that knowing look from a grandchild that they know I think they are truly wonderful and we love each other
a rare treat: no expectations from anyone else
and peanut butter with pickle sandwich

Going into a coffee shop and smelling the wonderful aroma of freshly brewed coffee.

The feel of fresh crisp linens.

A half hour nap.

The aroma of apples baking in the oven.

A grilled hot dog at Costco

That first dip in the water, it used in the ocean, now it's at the pool.

A walk on the beach, digging my toes into the mud and feeling the ridges.

Collecting sea shells.

Watching the sun set from my living room window.

Watching old black and white movies.

Any special featuring Frank Sinatra.

Listening to the music of the 40's!

Thanks Ronni for getting me to stop and smell the roses!

Peanut butter & mayonaise sandwiches -- such a rich taste and texture in the mouth -- don't do it any more because of cholesterol etc. but still do peanut butter mixed in with hot cereal or by the spoon out of the jar. Foglifter coffee. Seagulls and crows -- thanks to Charles de Lint books about the first people I just know the crows are trying to impart some kind of wisdom to me, I'm just not tuned in enough to "get it." So many "little" pleasures that mean so much more than the big ones. I'll have to start a list for myself! Thanks for the post.

This was fun to read - not only because it make me think about the little things I forget to savor and notice that are satisfying, but I can come out of the closet regarding peanut butter. I grew up on PB with mayonnaise! When I mention it to anyone - well - I have escaped commitment - but just barely! Then there are the plain mayonnaise sandwiches we kids would make as that was the extent of our sandwich making skill.

Cats are perfect animals! I agree - watching mine is sometimes better than TV. Endearing in their aloofness and intelligence is putting it mildly.

My coworkers and I shared a trip to the bank (gas is $4.65 here in LA) last payday and were discussing the very same thing as you mention - the satisfaction of paying bills!

I just love the sound of seagulls - comforting.

Smells and scents give me a good deal of comfort and satisfaction as well. The warm scent of roses off my back patio and the orange blossoms and jasmine in my yard. A heady combination!

I loved this post, all your small pleasures plus those of the commenters (is it er or or?)--many of which match mine). For the rest of the day I'll be thinking of myriad other small pleasures. I would add to the paying bill part, the end of every month when I balance the checking account (all online of course!) and it comes out perfect the first time!

Hugs...hugs are so warm and soft and can only come from one who loves you.

Dusk, when the day is winding down and there is a breeze gently blowing.

Listening to my sons and hearing them laugh together.

Crawling into bed when the sheets are clean and crisp and cool.

Taking a nap while in the background hearing the noises of life being live.

Hot buttered cornbread cooked just like Mama Gooch did.

Like Kay, when people comment on a post at my blog, I get the same feeling I used to get when someone mailed me a letter.

Funny, when I read this I thought how could I think of anything that makes me happy. Now I cannot stop, but I will.

One of my simple pleasures is upon awakening stretching and rolling back over to steal another half hour of sleep. Not the deep sleep kind but the half way between awake and asleep, feeling like I am wrapped in a safe cocoon while the rest of the world goes by.

Leasurily reading the newspaper over breakfast and lingering awhile over my coffee.

Watching the two cardinals who have adopted my porch side bird bath as their very own. They bath with such vigor and splashing I almost think I should provide small bird size towels.

Of course my grandchildren, especially when as happened tonight one in particular is performing on stage at school in a musical. At eleven years old, He shines on stage and comes alive. A natural.

Winter's just arrived here and my recurring pleasure this time of year is putting my pyjamas on and watching a good movie or tv show with the wood heater on. It makes me smile just thinking about it.

I am terrified of cats. And the peanut butter and mayo sounds pretty scary, too! But I love having the bills all paid. I hate actually paying them, but if there's money left over after writing the checks, I feel great!

The first dandelions in the spring ... cheerful, bright, sunny, welcoming.

My cameras, having them, learning them, using them.

The feeling of sheer joy when a poem or other piece of writing effortlessly flows simultaneously from outside of myself but also from within.

Phone conversations with my mother, who is almost 92, my sister and my brother.

Watching a Caspian Tern splash down in a headlong, give-it-all-you've-got dive.

The song of the Hermit Thrush ... pure transcendence.

When my husband, now in the 7th year of Alzheimer's, looks at me, knows me for the moment, and says, "I love you."

Retirement life on the "way up north" California coast has given me appreciation for flannel sheets and huge Ravens that walk about like little people....Sunday afternoon conversations with fellow artists at the local gallery are soul satisfying...

Such an excellent post, Ronnie. Loved it and read each and every comment. "Ditto" to these already noted: #1 CATS - and the others in no particular order - seagulls, bill paying, freshly laundered sheets, peanut butter and pickle sand, my rosebushes, birds at the feeder (especially rufus hummingbirds), the ocean (Oregon coast) and reading the newspaper over breakfast.
In addition, these: ginger anything, real letters & cards in my mailbox, the smell of sagebrush, reading in bed, and solitude.

Any seagull here in Kansas is seriously lost. But keeping with the nature them, one of my favorite times is going for the paper in the morning.

Our driveway winds through a field of native tall grass. Sometimes I see a deer; often a lark or crow on the wire. If I am up real early there might be an owl headed home to our woods after a long night.

Always there are tracks in our very imperfectly graveled drive. Raccoons, coyotes, possums, among others.

So, by the time the papers are in the house, held down by a mug of the latest flavor of green tea (pomegranite is in right now), I have had a serene little nature walk and always something to report to my wife. The cat makes sure she's up by the time I get back with the morning news.

Dear Ronni - You post such good stuff!! Peanut butter dip (add honey and mayo) great on all raw veggies.
Seeing the birds and squirrels and bunnies at our bird feeders - oh joy! Watching the trees and plants in the sunroon and yard flower - we love it. Wish My Mom could see it all - she would have been 94 now and it would have been nice to share the grandchildren and nature with her again. To those of your readers with parents still on this side of the grass....give them a hug and kiss for me for I can only do it to my my dreams...which by the way is one of my joys in life!!!

I love these comments. I could name a long list of my own, but to me, the fact that so many people here are still able to appreciate the smallest pleasures in life is one of my biggest joys today.

Simple pleasures are what life is all about. Thanks for the reminder on that.

I enjoyed it very much,

Best from sunny Kansas,

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