Happy To Be Here: Some of my favorite things

Published 4:30 pm Saturday, July 6, 2024

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What are your favorite memories of summers gone by? Barbecues, patriotic bunting, and fireworks? Vacation planning, iced drinks, and swimming holes? Gardening, dirt under your fingernails, the smell of worms after a rain?

As I look around this year, I see a distorted picture. People listen to the news and scowl. They repeat politically based slogans, forgetting that the embedded slurs insult their neighbors. They worry about war. They argue about the environmental consequences of actions. They fret about the economy. They feel anxious in the face of health scares. They feel helpless as time marches into an uncertain future.

The song “My Favorite Things,” written in 1959 by Rodgers and Hammerstein for The Sound of Music, offers some good advice. By itself, the song doesn’t solve any of the dramatically fraught moments of the story, and it certainly doesn’t disperse the approaching storm clouds of Austria’s annexation by the Nazis, but it does help the characters focus on happier thoughts and their many blessings. It suggests that a change of perspective can brighten one’s outlook, which in turn helps illuminate the path forward.

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With this in mind, I’d like to tell you about some of my favorite things.

I love watching the back of a wave as it begins to break. Spectacular pictures of surf usually show the power of the wave’s lip, the line of the curl, and the dynamic beauty of the whitewater spray. All this attention focuses on the front, the wave’s face. But, if you stand on a fishing pier where you can see the action from behind, the scene is quite different. The rising swell smooths into ever-changing runnels that seem polished and soft as they approach the crest. The turbulence and agitation remain hidden beneath a silky luster. The swell tumbles toward shore and the moment passes. The next wave approaches to present a renewed, serene veneer. If I were a sculptor with an appropriate piece of jade, I would try to capture one of these fleeting moments of tranquil splendor.

Summer evenings offer more leisurely stretches of time. Birds and bugs sing their lullabies and prepare for the night. As the sun sets, oranges and reds wash over the sky and reflect in clouds. Fireflies emerge in the twilight. Their rising, blinking lights remind me of bubbles floating to the top of a cold glass of sparkling water. I wait for the stars to pop out. In the summer, the first will be Arcturus, the one that faithfully circles the big and little bears, known by the dipper shapes they make. The unhurried settling of nature doesn’t honor our artificial time-keeping devices. It follows its own schedule, and it progresses without interruptions for advertisements.

Delightful smells permeate the daylight hours. Freshly brewed morning coffee. Bread just out of the oven. Vanilla extract being added to batter. Mown grass or hay. Flowers.

I also enjoy pausing to appreciate light displays that sparkle, shine, and flash. Sunshine dancing on wavelets. Dew drops and raindrops. Cut glass and crystal. The glitter path created by the light of a rising moon over water. Lightening. Shooting stars. The flames from a camp fire as they dance and reach for the sky.

And colors, in abundance. On our back porch, we have a pinwheel-like device with petal-shaped blades in bright rainbow hues. When the wind spins it slowly, the colors rotate one by one. When the wind blows harder, they blend into a whirling color wheel. If I had to choose, I suppose I prefer blue, but not any particular shade. I love everything from ice to indigo and all the other various expressions blue contributes to as it sneaks across boundaries to create purples, greens, and even browns.

Admittedly, a few things mentioned in the famous song don’t make my personal list of favorite things. Snowflakes, mittens, and other emblems of winter. But that’s okay. We all have different preferences. Your list is likely different from mine. The task isn’t to agree on our favorite things, it’s just to take time to step away from the angst of the day and refresh our minds with gratitude for the blessings that bring us joy and peace.

Karen Bellenir has been writing for The Farmville Herald since 2009. Her book, Happy to Be Here: A Transplant Takes Root in Farmville, Virginia features a compilation of her columns. It is available from PierPress.com. You can contact Karen at kbellenir@PierPress.com.