A Few Of My Favourite Things

Conversation for children, when they want to get to know someone, almost always involves questions of what is your favourite. It was important to have a favourite colour, even if it changed over the years, a favourite TV show, a favourite meal, so that you might determine the possibility of the two of you becoming friends over a shared affection for yellow or Mighty Mouse or cinnamon toast. When you are eight, these preferences feel etched on your soul, so much so that to choose a red popsicle over an orange bordered on madness. Life was yes and no, with very little ambiguity. Boiled cabbage – not for me. Giant Sweet Tarts – sensational. As we age, the lines become blurred, the boundaries obscured, and very little of life is cut and dried. We are more interested in warmth than hot or cold, looking in the shadows and the hidden crevices for the truth of our existence.

Children are more than happy to declare those items on the list of favourites, their answers immediate and certain and … it got me thinking. I have been trying to lift my spirits out of the despair caused by the myriad of bad news in our country and around the world. In a discussion over dinner with friends the other night the conversation inevitably swung around to the state of society. One of the individuals at the table said that humanity as a whole “sucks” and all we can do is exist while the world grows closer to implosion. My Pollyanna heart struggles with that bleak outlook but maybe I am the one who is wrong. A wise person once told me that before I start challenging others’ opinions, I first need to challenge my own. I wasn’t even sure I had opinions at that time, but the advice has stayed with me.

I decided this morning to tap into the child in me, who hasn’t gone far it turns out, and to pen my list of favourite things. I thought singing along with Julie Andrews might be fun, or should I say Maria Von Trapp. There was thunder last night so it seems fitting, to set the mood to capture the essence of The Sound of Music. The list wouldn’t be complex and certainly should include only those things within my grasp, already within reach of my gratitude. But then I stumbled on an old article in Psychology Today written in 2013 about a man in Japan interviewed at the age of 114. It turns out he had no favourite things, no likes or dislikes, but rather a perspective of curiosity for anything and everything. The interviewer wanted desperately to uncover his secret for long life, as if she might link his longevity to a favourite food or favourite pass-time or …. On the contrary, this man was open to all things and that was the likely link to his significant age. He passed away at 116.

In honour of this man’s approach to life, I modified my list to include those things for which I am grateful. I am grateful for the colour the sun creates as it shines through the water near the beach on the lake near my home, creating an amber colour that I have not seen duplicated anywhere else. The colour soothes me, and I’d like to fill a jar to capture the colour to bring home with me. I admire the engineering feats of the spiders whose work is clearly visible after a cool night with heavy dew, the morning’s sunlight illuminating the intricate patterns of these masterpieces. I admire the courage of cliff divers like Molly Carlson who stands seventy feet above the water and leaps with the faith that her body knows how to twist and turn and deliver her safely, her feet slicing through the water. If I turn too quickly in my kitchen, I feel I am lost. Though I detest the mess the squirrels have made in my shed, I can’t help admiring their precision of nut-stashing, the filling of containers with only one variety before moving on to the next. I have confounded their autumn plans by covering their entrances with hardware cloth. I could apologize for being a spoilsport, but I won’t. My list is long, and I close it with the gratitude for my granddaughter’s arms around my neck, her cheek pressed against mine, and her unshakeable trust in me that she is loved.