Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Simple Pleasures

Somewhere along the way I learned to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. These include, but are not limited to: sharing good conversation with friends in a restaurant, sitting in a coffee shop on a chilly afternoon, gazing out a window, enjoying a glass of wine after a busy day, scratching a cat behind the ears, and sleeping late on the weekends.

I am the type of quiet person who does not like change and my simple pleasures reflect this. I get into my routine and I'm happy there (Coffee is at mid-morning, about 10:30 AM). I do enjoy new experiences, but don't bring them at me too quickly (I bought a sports car in 1999 and then a small plane in 2002 and I still have them today). I enjoy seeing new places, but getting there is such a bother (I went to San Francisco once in the late 70s and then again in 2008). I should try different items from the menu at my favorite restaurant, but many times I just order my favorite dish (I liked the greek pizza last time so I'll probably enjoy it again).

I suppose one of the reasons I have such affection for cats is that they are also creatures of habit and they are natural experts at simple pleasures. Oscar will spend a good portion of each day staring out the window, Ginger will absorb any amount of scratches and ear rubbing, and all of them will nap for hours. Zoey seems to indulge in sleep the most, but Ginger and Oscar are very good at it, too. Their lives are so filled with these simple pleasures that I wonder if they ever get weary of it. There is a risk of dissatisfaction in too much of a good thing, but many of us would like to sample the life of luxury they enjoy.

While I am a creature of habit, that is not to say that I don't take risks and try new things. In my life I've devoured many different hobbies including swing and salsa dancing, aerobatic flying, guitar, writing, video production, theater, and simple music composition. I've also enjoyed building a wide variety of things from model airplanes when I was a kid to sets and costumes for my videos now that I am an adult but still a kid. I've been on a horse, a pair of skis, and one of those old-timey bicycles with the BIG wheel in the front and the small wheel in the back. I've been in a helicopter and a Ford Model T, and though I've never ridden in a balloon I will someday.

While many of these hobbies are involved and difficult, they often have simple elements buried in amongst the noise and the drama. Take flying for instance. This is perhaps one of the most complex activities that humans can do. Indeed we were not meant to fly, and doing so requires tremendous ingenuity, time, resources, and money. I am incredibly lucky to be able to fly for the simple joy of flying, and while I'm up there I am aware of both the power and quiet of the experience. I'm busy with the task of operating the plane, but I also feel a sense of calm when I'm suspended motionless high above the world. If you are crammed into a large metal tube with strangers, this motionless suspense can be tedious. If you are alone in a small red biplane on a summer evening it is bliss.

So many simple pleasures work nicely alone, but some are best shared with friends. Girl watching is a perfect example. Eldon is a good friend who shares my enthusiasm for this fine sport. Turns out we are actually somewhat unlikely friends as he is a Mennonite Pastor and I am agnostic and our lives are different in many respects. But on the other hand we share similar philosophical views and opinions, we both love good coffee and good food, and we both love to admire the ladies from afar. He and I make a regular habit of visiting a number of coffee shops and restaurants around town and secretly checking out the ladies therein. Without shame we combine the simple pleasures of food, conversation, and female visual splendor wherever they may be found.

Eldon and I have developed a secret code whereby one of us can alert the other to the presence of a lady in our midst. It is similar to the code that military pilots use to indicate the position of other aircraft relative to themselves. You may recall movies where one pilot calls out on radio to the others, "bogeys, twelve o'clock high." This would indicate the location of other aircraft immediately ahead and at a higher elevation. In the same manner Eldon and I will quietly call out "three-o'clock" to indicate a nice lady to the right, or "nine-o'clock" to indicate one to the left. If we are both seated facing the same direction then this code works easily and nearly without fail, but if we are seated in different orientations then we must indicate the proper frame of reference such as, "YOUR six-o'clock" to indicate a target "behind you" or "MY eleven-o'clock" to call out a visual contact in front of me and slightly to the left. So far we have avoided detection by any ladies who might be the object of our admiration. It is possible that we have both been caught with our eyes askew, but no one has ever called us on it. For now we remain free and at large. 

Of course the best thing about most simple pleasures is that they require so little effort and are easily grasped by anyone. Who doesn't know how to savor the taste of good food or get swept away in the spontaneity of laughter? Few things have the immediate effect of a favorite song, and what else is easier than an afternoon nap? In a world that loves to measure profit margin and return on investment, the simple pleasures have it over just about any other human endeavor. With little effort you gain so much reward and it is a shame that more people don't seem to understand this. We all rush forward each and every day to further our dreams, and I am certainly in that race, but I'm always ready to step back and watch it all go by for awhile. Isn't that what looking out a window is all about?


  1. Glad you have the same sense of humor in your written words as in your movies - Enjoyed this! :)

  2. You are awesome Paul... and so are your cats ;)

  3. Agnostic? Sure? Not just a little Zen?

    1. Of all the religions or philosophies that I have never practiced, Zen is certainly one of the most attractive to me.

  4. Is there anything you're not good at Paul? Wow... a man of multiple talents and a great sense of humour (Canadian) :-)

  5. I am in full accord with you Paul. There's a kitten on my lap purring up a storm right now, a great cup of coffee by my laptop, and a peacefulness in the early morning house that can't be beat.

  6. Two thumbs up Paul. You are a good writer and I'm enjoying your blog as much as I've enjoyed your videos. Thank you!! >^,,^<

  7. Most enjoyable, thank you! As a fellow blog writer I recognise the mixture of the fascinating immediacy of simply letting your thoughts flow, preferably after a good glass of wine, combined with the (refreshing) compunction to actually get the writing right :-)

    I find that a conscious effort to enjoy the simple pleasures pays off hugely. And that said, the sun has emerged here; a cold glass of white on the summer beach with friends beckons... Cheers!

  8. All cats (no exception) are descendants of The Big Purring Teacher Cat who came here to initiate us into the secrets of simple pleasures, which include, but do not limit to, playing with laser red point, sleeping in the sink, eating bugs and playing with half-dead mouse.

  9. I'm not anonymous as stated --

    One of my simple pleasures is taking a nice drive to some quiet spot, preferably by the water, and enjoying the scenery. I bring a book with me. Sometimes, I bring a sketchbook. I always bring my camera.

    I take in all the sounds that accompany life on the shore. If you close your eyes, you can hear the water lapping the rocks, small waves crash, sending sea spray into the air. Maybe there is a lobster boat coming in from setting out traps and you can hear the motor puttering along the inlet to the dock. Of course, there are the requisite seagulls hovering for scraps. There is a child's laugh at getting their feet wet in the ocean for the first time. A gentle breeze rustles the trees that line the water's edge.

    That's just one of my simple pleasures.

    Of course, on a rainy day, I'm snuggled up with my kitties. They pin my legs down and just don't let me up at all!

    ~ Wendy Ambrose

  10. Clarification: Eldon is a SINGLE Mennonite pastor! Check him out ladies! Here is his Facebook:

  11. ...and are you still single by lifestyle choice? Haven't met the right lady (or met her but keeping it on the downlow for now)? I think it is safe to say that many quality ladies find you attractive both emotionally, intellectually and physically. Just asking the question many are thinking. :D

  12. After watching your videos too many times, I actually hear you as I read your blog. Your writer's voice is distinctive.
    Please keep posting.

  13. My Miciotka can spent a whole day bird watching (we have a huge tree right in front of the window), sha also 'talks' to them, she makes strange high pitched sounds like in no other occasion.

  14. I am lucky enough to live 100 yds from the sea and I can see France. One of my greatest pleasures is to sit in my hanging chair (which is attached under the balcony of the flat above), with a glass of wine and watch a summer storm come across the English Channel. It's like your own private firework display. It's all calm when it's in the distance, and then the wind picks up and the tiny specks of lightening get bigger and bigger, and then it hits you and the rain starts, and it's amazing. So long as the wind is East/West I don't even get wet......and every day I say thank you for having this amazing experience at my disposal. Thank you for your made me smile.