I am a list maker. An avid list maker. I pen lists of everyday tasks, lists of dreams, of things to do, write, learn, read, become. This practice has become an almost involuntary penchant. These catalogs of images and possibilities are like beads on a bracelet, so familiar they seem part of me, like wedding bands.
Because of my love of lists I delight in the tiny wonderful genius of a book called 14,000 Things to be Happy About. Barbara Ann Kipfer’s book is a master list of quotidian joys, vivid and ordinary, sometimes quietly miraculous. It’s a gift. Open it to any page and flood your brain with “apple blossoms / morning prayer,” “the soul-stirring sound of rain on the roof,” and “having a field day / peanut butter and cranberry sauce sandwiches,” as well as “old country inns to get lost in / seedless oranges,” and “story hour.” (All of which are encapsulated just on page 133.) The book is an ode to gratitude, imagination, and the poetry of our ordinary days.
In a similar tone, I like to compose what I refer to as “fragments” — lists of images or snippets of conversation that strike me as the most vivid parts of an experience. I try to notate these fragments as close as possible to the event itself, whether it’s the sweet summer wedding of a friend, a day at the beach, or a visit to a new city, to remember all that I can. To live it, in words. The list form is useful for its expediency; I’m focused on the key words that define the moment or image or memory, not the syntax or chronology. I can polish the fragments into something solid, into a cohesive canvas, later. For now, I just want to put them on paper, capture them like a candid photograph I can edit lovingly and in time.
To usher more joy into my days, I’ve been keeping a list of summer fragments, an ode to 14,000 Things in that they focus on lovely everyday moments I want to remember. For me, this is one of the ways to bring gratitude and engagement to the beauty of everyday life. Here is what I’ve collected so far. And the list grows daily, like a backyard garden in the height of summer, delighted with its own rampant and green growth…
Pet Sounds on the record player (Wouldn’t It Be Nice…)
Evening walks; the vibrancy of wildflowers, everywhere; the dream-music of wind chimes
A freshly made bed, pillows puffed
Strong black coffee, just brewed
Shoulders tanned by the sun
Smoky barbecue on Sunday
A dog who meets your eyes from the car window, his eyes knowing and sleepy, his pink tongue lolling, his teeth tiny shells
On Beauty and Being Just, by Elaine Scarry
Reading Harry Potter as an adult
Dreaming about children (beautiful unknown beings who are sure to surprise you) and their someday names
Baking on a whim
How the lake looks deep blue from a distance
Butter-gold sunflowers from the market
Iced coffee with a splash of milk
Leaving the library with more books than you can carry, and a sense of possibility
Sally Mann’s photography
Planning a trip to another country
Coconut cake with rose water syrup