Friday, January 1, 2016

Things We Like: a collective list, by 57 contributors

The idea for this list came from my dear friend Kathleen Thompson who shares her own Like List (and also her Dislike List) in her new book, The Project-Driven Life: How to Figure Out What You Want to be When You Grow Up.

I like . . . . saying the word aubergine; old photographs of my mom; my thick, wavy hair; forsythia blooming in December; trees, pictures of trees, sculptures of trees, thinking of trees; the sound of the singing bowl; hearing an "old" song, singing along, and knowing all the words; balancing my uncertainties against Neruda's The Book of Questions; dirt under my fingernails; the exhalations of whales and the acceptance of crows; my garden Buddha beside the black gnomes; taking my winter coat out of the closet; seeing the moon with a planet close by; wild turkeys outside the kitchen window; getting up in the morning with no aches and pains; a new ball of yarn, preferably a slightly variegated shade of blue or purple . . . or maybe red; a phone call from my kids, any time; the first snow of the season, and having someone else shovel it off the sidewalks; waterfalls!  — anywhere, any size — tiny to towering.

I like . . . . putting my face close to my horse's nostrils and breathing in his exhalations; telling my horse all about my day when I get to the barn after work; getting a letter in the mail from a beloved friend — even better when it has drawing on the envelope or dried flowers inside; telling people stories about my father; handmade art of almost any type; chamber music in 25-minute doses; warm boots on a cold day; long talks with a friend about everything and nothing; trying out new recipes; having a poem I've written accepted for publication; reading in bed; early morning bird song; late evenings with fire on the clouds; summer grass waving against a blue sky; ripe fruit from our orchard; deliberately mispronounciating words just to see if anyone is brave enough to correct me; holding a dying person's hand and marveling again: how is it possible to be that beautiful?; reading the poem "in Just-" by E. E. Cummings, because its perfection couldn't be more perfect and sometimes I need to remember that there are things in this world that are just exactly perfect.

I like . . . . my brown skin; my ass; making radical theatre; waking and baking; garlic; the way that building hip-hop beats feels both scientific and spiritual; watching dolphins cavort in the surf; the sign for "I love you" in American Sign Language; watching the dance of northern lights at dusk; the smell of a new book when I open its cover for the first time; the panoply of colors cast by the sun through stained glass; sleeping on boats, in a tent, on the couch with War and Peace fallen to my chest; surf-polished lettered-olive shells on the beach, in my pocket, by the basketful; turtles, marine and terrestrial, totemic and fetishistic; the smell of basements; wondering in whose houses my used books once lived; compasses that seem to be alive in my hand, my direction always changing; the curve of an open canoe; how a Thermos keeps my tea warm all day; feeling alone and in charge of my solitude; my mother's words on paper: for your birthday, the moon and stars . . . wish I could give you more.

I like . . . . strawberry jello mixed with vanilla ice cream; competitive Scrabble games; Gabrielle Münter's paintings; learning etymologies of English words; Wednesday's New York Times crossword puzzle; Leonard Cohen; playing poker; British New Wave films; a pixie haircut; Keuka Lake nights, the sky black with bats; roller skating freely in my dreams; the New York red-tailed hawk, Pale Male; smoked whitefish on a sesame bagel; any music written by George Gershwin; Gustav Klimt paintings; being up early enough to see a pink sky at sunrise; paddling a kayak alone on a river; purchasing what promises to be a great novel in a bookstore; putting on a cotton T-shirt fresh from the dryer; de-cluttering my home; the movie previews before the main feature; animal crackers before bed; the haiku path in Honey Run, Ohio; brass bells — of which I have many and of various sizes; ice skating; drafting pencils with no. 7 lead; daisies; walking through a mangrove forest.

I like . . . . sparrows in the honeysuckle; Grandma's crocheted tablecloth; icicles in sunlight; a good tomato; finishing a poem; watching the sky at my feet, in a puddle, after rainfall; red nailpolish; listening to the radio while in a taxi; learning about Japanese traditions; sleeping in a train at night, in the upper bed; the sound of a chickadee tapping a seed; how bumblebees stir the purple wisteria; candling duck eggs on a rainy day; the play of sunlight on a hummingbird’s throat; first sight of the shrimp boats coming home; the clucking of chickens going to roost; eating someone else's cooking; a cat's judgment; a hug from a kind stranger; root beer delivered by a carhop; thrift-store treasures that no one else noticed; passionate kisses in my mind; the word puce; rain-kissed hair; bright red wool socks.

I like . . . . the wind on my neck after a haircut; strolling through the streets of London; getting to the bus stop just as the right bus arrives; hotel bedrooms, hotel breakfast rooms, and hotel bars; the last blackbird song before nightfall; a winter’s morning, when hoar frost has subtly changed the shape of the world; flower meadows full of butterflies that don’t mind being photographed; the gentle grip of a rock-wallaby's hands; singing the very low notes; Noel Coward’s arch, clever, vivisecting lyrics; the small thrill when the car starts right up on a cold morning, and another when the heater kicks in; the fiddle and banjo music for a square dance, and the giggles of little kids trying to keep up with the caller’s cues; near-monochromatic frosty mornings, orchard and lawn sugar-coated in sparkling silvery grey, punctuated by the few hold-out yellow winter-banana apples and the brilliant-red cardinal pecking under the icy feeder; friends — some are lost, some are found.

I like . . . . having my 75-year-old mother do my hair; knowing that I made a really good decision even if it does hurt sometimes; the sound of my cat snoring; anything that makes me laugh out loud; working a jigsaw puzzle in front of a crackling fire while sipping a glass of pinot noir; reading bedtime stories to my grandkids; that sinking feeling that happens when waves lap over your feet and the warm sand washes away beneath them; the infinite possibilities when I am starting to write a new novel; beautifully illustrated children's books; doll-sized tea sets; watching my dog's tail twirl like a cheerleader's pom pom as she runs toward me; singing in a group; whistling while recalling my grandmother whistling; independent bookstores, used bookstores, big bookstores, little bookstores, knowing there are still bookstores; going for a walk when the sky is dropping lace doilies.

I like . . . . the smell of particular crabapple blossoms; the stories shadows tell; tapioca on the tongue; having my hair stroked absentmindedly; friendly comments from strangers; artichoke hearts; walking on carpets of pine needles in the woods; the hiss of a lantern at night in a lakeside cabin; Grandpa and Grandma; gospel songs; looking at old photos, remembering; knowing that an abandoned dog has been rescued; watching the fire grow after spending a lot of time lighting it; stepping onto solid ground after being on a plane; taking off a pair of tight shoes and walking barefoot; singing in the shower; going to certain shows alone, sitting in the darkened theatre, and not having to talk to anyone; doing historical research; Shakespeare; driving really fast and a little bit recklessly; staying at home in my nightshirt all day long; wearing black clothes, all the time.

I like . . . . my grandson's smile, his red hair, his blue eyes, his laugh; telling jokes; my dead people — I remember them in my heart; cooking for friends; creating art, all sorts; exercising at the gym and breathing more deeply when I'm finished; singing full volume in the car, alone and out-of-tune; writing limericks during a dull meeting; chocolate cake for breakfast; the cat purring on my desk while I write a poem; a hot bath at the end of a long day; moonrise in the desert; two out, bottom of the ninth, the game on the line; a Turner seascape — the swirling dark of it; the coast of Cornwall; the breathless rush of mountain streams; calculations that go one hundred percent right; winning a bet on myself, against myself; free books; landscapes through my camera's eye; new notebooks to write in; my job, which allows me to laugh with people every day; the sound of siblings giggling together.

I like . . . . my sister's loyalty; Dave Brubeck's Take Five; sliced mango; the yip of a coyote; wearing my grandma's amethyst ring, grateful that we have the same finger size; wearing 10-year-old shoes to walk with my 10-year-old dog; finding letters, while cleaning the attic, that were sent to me by my first love; swimming in brackish water; remembering to take out the recycling; injera bread; listening to my loved ones play music; peeling clementines; biking down a well-trodden path; the word trodden; sweaters so cozy you want to sleep in them; the interior of a living room reflected in a window at night, light and darkness coexisting inside the same rectangle; kneading clay; flying kites; watching an old movie with new friends; laughing too hard for it to be good for your ribs; climbing onto roofs; anything Scandinavian.

I like . . . . getting up before everyone else and going to bed before everyone else; arriving at a place of insight when life is difficult; anything I can wear on my feet; knowing I have wonderful friends who love me; the sound of wind chimes when the wind is from the east; fine-point pens; sheets that have dried in the sun; organizing the piles of papers on my desk; arriving home from a trip and settling into my regular routine; hearing my sister's voice on my answering machine; seeing the red-bellied woodpecker come to our feeder; accompanying “golden oldies” for the Senior Community Chorus when they sing at area retirement and nursing homes; rough-sorting books in preparation for the Friends of the Library booksale; the first cigar of the day; knowing that every day is a blessing. 

I like . . . planning menus with elaborate dishes that I will never prepare since I reject recipes with more than ten ingredients, but that I love to consider when I am lying awake at 3:21 in the morning; staying in the shower too long even though I know I should conserve water, but I am so caught up in the enveloping cascade, I have trouble persuading myself to get on with it and get out; drawing cats (because I'm good at that); doing karate; writing, and dancing, and spending time with my family; learning all sorts of new things; playing the guitar; doing algebra; napping; Brian Wilson's falsetto; my brother's imitation of Neil Diamond; the novel To Make Others Happy, by Patrick Robbins; the joy of simple things; daydreaming; feeling the strong and steady beat of my own heart; manual typewriters; slow dancing to the old tunes, cheek to cheek with my beloved; conspiratorial whispering.

I like . . . . having clocks from the Lab of Ornithology, in every room, announcing the hour with genuine birdsong; hearing the Western Meadowlark, the state bird of Kansas, every day at 5 p.m. sharp; talking to animals without using any words; being retired and not always having to know what day of the week it is; getting my sister to laugh about something silly; watching my mother's home movies from the 1950s; admiring my collection of 18 watches, deciding which one to wear or carry in my pocket today; pulling money out of the ATM machine — it is so warm; recalling one of my first memories (peeling the bark off a sycamore tree and revealing tiny red ants); eating crèmes brûlée; having inspired conversation with good friends while sharing food and drink; intellectual stimulation; positive people who spread their good energy around; reading the last chapter of a novel first; finding hopscotch grids chalked on the sidewalk; writing with purple ink; anything that was written by Grace Paley; my mother's nearly illegible handwriting; being alive; making lists of favorite things.

With gratitude to all the contributors:

Alan Catlin
Alice Damp
Ana Drobot 
Barbara Cartwright
Barbara Hay
Barbara Tate
Beal St. George
Carol Kammen
Caroline Gates-Lupton
Catherine Rigutto
David J. Kelly
Deanalís Resto
Edith Gallagher
Edna S. Brown
Ferris Gilli
Gabrielle Vehar
Garima Behal
Jan Benson
Jo Balistreri
Joan Corr
Joan McNerney
Joann Grisetti
Joanna M. Weston
Josh Gates-Lupton
Judith Sornberger
Judy Cogan
June Wolfman
Karen O'Leary
Karla Linn Merrifield
Kathleen Thompson
Lance Robertson
Laura Gates-Lupton
Margaret Jones
Marty Blue Waters
Maureen Sudlow
Michael Lakin
Mihal Ronen
Mort Levinson
Nancy Osborn
Olivier Schopfer
Pat Geyer
Patrick Robbins
Peggy Haine
Phyllis Lee
Rebecca Gates-Lupton
Rosa Clement
Roxanne VanWormer
Sara Robbins
Saskya van Nouhuys
Sherron Brown
Siouxsie Easter
Sue Norvell
Susan Lesser
Theresa A. Cancro
Tricia Knoll
Weiwei Luo
Zee Zahava


  1. It was such fun reading this. It makes for a wild ride of a poem. Great way to start 2016. Thank you, Zee.