Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Monday, October 29, 2007

Doing What Pleases Us

Precisely the least,

the softest,
a lizard's rustling,
a breath,
a flash, a moment -
a little makes the way of the best happiness.
-Frederich Nietzsche

We spent a few days in Amsterdam last year. We have friends who will always ask us, on hearing we travelled, if we saw such and such a place or visited this, or went there or viewed that.
The answer, most of the time, is that we did none of it.
We tend to find other things to do than following guide books when we explore a new place.
For us in Amsterdam, walking from morning until evening was our pleasure. We like to walk as much as we can no matter where we go but in a new city it is absolutely fascinating.
It was unbearably hot so we had to carefully walk under trees or wherever we found shade.
We found an incredibly-priced grocery store and for six days we shopped there for our little bits of food.
I remember ice cold drinkable yogurt in gallon containers for a modest 50 cents; barely warm pancakes with a hint, just a whiff, of blueberry that we wrapped in brown paper bags and ate for breakfast while walking on antiquated streets; and in the evening, swallowing the most delicious ice cream on the planet while sitting at a crowded street fountain on the way back to our apartment. Our feet were so hot and weary, and the water so raw and refreshing that I swear to this day I heard a 'hiss' when we dipped our toes into the fountain with the other merrymakers. The fact that mere yards away various street performers were entertaining us for free, well, that was an unexpected treat indeed.
The guide books, no doubt, told of wonders to the left and right of us and down the next street; but their information could never have taken the place of those pleasures.
If we had followed a tourist book goodness knows what we might have done but I am positive we would not know about steeping our feet, or drinkable yogurt which, I might add, was one of the most nectareous foods I have ever tasted.
Of course, the element of a foreign country or being on vacation seems to make such sweet thrills easier to come by. One could well say that the above only applies when having the luxury of a vacation.
It does not have to be like that: yesterday was Sunday and in the morning we went for a walk along by a river that runs near our apartment. We took photographs, collected some vividly coloured leaves and felt cold air sting our cheeks for the first time in months. When we have been complaining of heat during the summer months, with the coming of colder times it is too easy to forget the woes of heat and begin anew to complain, this time about the cold. We are not sun-people and so were mighty glad of the bite in the weather and glad that we could finally go for a walk without fear of sunstroke.
Warm, milky drinks can be looked forward to, and thick blankets can be shaken from their position in the closet and used, at long last.
There is always something simple to be glad about but I do not recall reading of them in any guide book or, for that matter, self-help book.
I myself look forward to watching the torrential rain from the safety of indoors, plenty of cups of tea, and hours of reading Calvin and Hobbes which always puts me in mind of the best and most comforting things about Winter.
We should, in the end, please ourselves and do what cheers us most without desperately following a list constructed by somebody else. If we look hard enough we might just find that our greatest pleasures are the least expensive ones. If so, if we manage to do that, imagine a source of fun that was renewable, that could be experienced more often.
It would be fine to live such a limitless life, not to save money, but to get the joy that comes with being creative.

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