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:
Beal St. George
David J. Kelly
Edna S. Brown
Joanna M. Weston
Karla Linn Merrifield
Marty Blue Waters
Saskya van Nouhuys
Theresa A. Cancro