The small things

As I sit in Beetley, it is towards the end of May, but it is raining hard and has been since I woke up. It also feels quite chilly, the first time it has been so for some while. Hardly the stuff that memories are made of, but it has cast me into a reflective mood, nonetheless.

I have recently been sent lots of e-mails from various companies. New cars, electronic goodies, better and faster computers, and sophisticated mobile phones; all have featured in these sales promotions. There are curved televisions with screens of unimaginable size, gadgets to make life easier, and cameras that do all but actually go out and take the photos for you. No doubt that will come soon.
All this bounty and luxury made me think about what we value, what is important, and what truly enriches our lives and existence. My list is not definitive. It is personal, and may mean little to others. Search inside yourselves, and you will discover your own.

A photo of my mother, in an old frame. It is taken in 1939, when she was fifteen years old. She has all her life ahead of her, and she smiles into the camera, anticipating the years to come. Little did she know then, that the next six years of her life would be consumed by a world war. There can be no value put on this picture from the past. To me, it is priceless.

Warm sand under your feet, walking across a beach. A sunny day, perhaps fifty years ago, possibly last month. The feeling is the same.

Climbing into a freshly-made bed. Clean sheets, and the prospect of a refreshing sleep before you.

Shaving with a new blade. Effortless, leaving you feeling smooth-skinned, and relaxed.

Lying on your back in long grass. Looking up at the sky, watching the cloud formations, sensing the ground on your back, feeling like a small part of eternity.

The companionship of a pet. No need to speak, no communication necessary. Just being together is enough for both of you.

The feeling that you know you are in love. Hard to define, even harder to explain, you just know. And it feels very good.

Sitting in a small boat, moving across water. You let your hand drift just under the surface, and feel the water passing across your skin.

Picking up a new book. Starting the first page, you immediately realise that it is going to be an incredible read, and you almost cannot wait for the next chapter.

Leaving a cinema after watching a great film. You stand outside the building, and are suddenly aware that you have seen something quite wonderful.

Standing before a work of art, its meaning and power becomes apparent to you. You get the message implied. You understand the artist’s intention.

Colours in nature. A seemingly unlimited palette, never ceasing to amaze.

A family gathering. Generations together without discord, understanding what it means to be human.

Laughing about nothing with good friends. You are the only ones who get the joke.

The sea crashing ashore on a stormy day. Feeling insignificant in its presence.

What’s on your list, I wonder?

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21 thoughts on “The small things

  1. Hi Pete, a lovely article. How about putting on a freshly ironed shirt, the first sip of wine, tea or beer? Ice cream in a cone? The scrunching sound of shoes on gravel or fresh snow? i was particularly fond of the clicking sound of your Zippo lighter in days past. My favourite shoes both old and new and the smells and scents that transport us back to somewhere else? Thanks for making me stop and think, there is a lot more to enjoy than we’d think. Keith

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    1. Ah, the old Zippo. Shame I don’t need to use it anymore mate. When have you ever known me to SIP wine? But I know what you mean nonetheless.
      You came up with some good ones too. Take care Keith. x

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  2. You have a lot on your list that I love doing. The small things make life wonderful. One thing I thought of immediately while reading your post is sitting in a corner, book in hand and just enjoying the flow of words.

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  3. Pete, this is a very thoughtful and wonderful post. I love when the meaning of a happy life is written about. It’s never the newest toy the marketplace begs us to buy. This is a 100% re blog.. Take care and happy blogging to ya, from Laura ~

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  4. For someone who doesn’t do top tens you have come up with a good one. Hard to add much to it as I savour so many of the things you describe. I would have to add the picture of my sister who sits along side my mum, both gone but providing me with the courage and encouragement to continue on the path we are on,
    Oh, and a cold beer after a long and hard days work 🙂 There is nothing that beats a simple life.

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    1. Pictures of family can inspire us, and even if, like me, you have no deeper spiritual beliefs, they do give that comfort of being ‘looked down upon’, which always somehow helps.

      The ‘simple’ life you have chosen is anything but simple. In our modern age, you have chosen a path of hard work, experiment, and a return to living with nature that is more like life one hundred years ago. In doing so, you have found your purpose, and inner peace, and I applaud you for following your dreams
      Love to all in Poland. Pete.

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  5. The streets are wet here in Las Vegas as I write this. Yes, it has rained a bit here. It’s 66 F (18.9 C), so it’s a cool day in May. Rather unusual. I very much enjoyed your list of “small things”—and was thinking that life may be more than the sum of its parts, but those are great parts!

    Having finally read “La Reine Margot” (625 pages), which I thoroughly enjoyed, I took a “day off” today and just read a short play, “La P…respectueuse” by J.-P. Sartre. As you know, I love books, movies, music, and art. But I also enjoy a good rock scramble or desert hike. I also enjoy seeing birds and animals in the wild. Growing up in the Midwest, I loved “shooting the V” in an aluminum, fiberglass, or Kevlar canoe, as well as exploring little riverside caves and sinkholes with a flashlight. At home, I routinely took axe, sickle, and knife to the nearby woods in order to carve trails. With hammer and nail, I built a platform in a towering walnut tree, which afforded me a bird’s-eye view of the world.

    I’m not really all that interested in electronic gadgetry. My computer serves a purpose. My cheap-o digital camera takes decent amateur photos. And I wear an old Timex, not a flashy Rolex or stylish Apple Watch. I have the most basic cell phone that money can buy.

    I’m always torn between spending time on the computer and experiencing the outdoors. I don’t need any more competition in my life!

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    1. I had a feeling that your list would include the great outdoors, in some of America’s untamed scenery David. It sounds as if your woodland years, and exploration of rivers and caverns continues the pioneer spirit of the Old West. A very ‘active’ list, balanced with intellectual pursuits, and a love of French, and most interesting to read.
      Best wishes as always, Pete.

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  6. “A photo of my mother, in an old frame. It is taken in 1939, when she was fifteen years old. She has all her life ahead of her, and she smiles into the camera, anticipating the years to come. Little did she know then, that the next six years of her life would be consumed by a world war. There can be no value put on this picture from the past. To me, it is priceless.”

    It does sound like an amazing picture. It’s interesting how knowing the story – both before and after – affects it’s quality, isn’t it?

    Of course, you read PJR’s blog so you’re probably very aware of that effect.

    As to what I value, it seems to change depending on my season in life. Right now my lis would be – not order of importance:
    a nap
    a hug from my kids
    the way my wife’s eyes look when she’s smiling
    having an insight into a story I’m working on
    finding some level of meaning in something I’ve written that I didn’t know was there
    seeing an interesting photo
    hearing the birds chirping from my porch
    listening to podcasts and stories about our world that make me see things in a new light

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    1. Thanks Eric. Your list sounds equally rewarding, I have no doubt.

      The photo of my Mum means more to me somehow, as she was so young, and not of course as I remember her. As I said at her funeral; ” I never forget, that long before she became my Mum, she was Violet for 28 years, with all the hopes and aspirations of any young girl.” It is a simple studio portrait, but all the more affecting for that.

      Best wishes from Norfolk. Pete.

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  7. What do we value? For me, friendship, my remaining health, the kindness of strangers, art – both stunning works of art (including photographs) that I have seen and the process of making art of my own, travelling to new places, listening to music, reading wonderful prose and poetry, old things (eg ruins, little things from the family that are a lane to the past)…. I could go on!

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