Perfect Days

I wanted to photograph everything I saw yesterday on my drive to and from Hudson, to take Shi (probably to be renamed Vous, or maybe Tu, at my dear Rebecca's suggestion) to the train for her Times Square hellride New Year's eve celebration. I decided to focus on driving instead, but I did manage to capture an image or two to share. That's the road that leads from us, more or less, to the nearest major "highway", which is a four lane, no commercial traffic allowed, FDR-developed, billboard-free beauty. The au pair keeps asking about the highways we use to get from one place to another, and I keep trying to explain that the Taconic Parkway and the Mass Pike are it. I guess it's confusing for someone whose frame of reference for American roads is more suburban than rural. (Hell, it was confusing for me after sixteen years of ten lane California freeways.)

But I digress. Yesterday was, other than the drive to Hudson, a low key, at-home kind of day. I am not much for the pressure and inevitable disappointment and self-loathing surrounding New Year's resolutions, but I did start thinking about happiness (also thanks to my old friend Gretchen's Happiness Project, which I encourage everyone to check out, in spite of her New Year's resolution advocacy) and what creates it for me, in the context of how to have a day, a single day, that feels successful and satisfying. This led me to the idea of a perfect day, and the immediate realization that it is, of course, unattainable. But an asymptotic approach is, I think, entirely realistic.

1. Physical activity, preferably strenuous. It could be a great vinyasa yoga class, or it could be snow shoveling and hill climbing (yesterday's activities of choice and necessity.) I am infinitely calmer, stronger and happier on days where I really exert myself.

2. A sense of accomplishment at some activity. Could be mundane--yesterday I ironed and starched a bunch of white dinner napkins. I've never bothered to do that before (my new focus on mechanics of successful ironing, evidenced by my recent google search for "ironing hacks," is probably really sad, but I have an excuse--the laundry/dry cleaning around here is so far sucky and expensive--not that I ever sent my napkins out anyway. But I got tired of them being rumpled and grungy, and, and and...) Or the accomplishment could be larger in scale, like the day before, when I rewrote (again) my book review for a local magazine.

3. Learning or appreciating something new. Since we can't get the New York Times delivered here (my single least favorite aspect of where we now live--really) this often comes via Garrison Keillor (who I always thought I loathed--it's often good to be wrong) and his Writer's Almanac, to which I am completely addicted.

4. Peace at home and with myself. Feeling like I am in control of my life and treating myself and others with kindess and respect. For something so simple on its surface, this one's complex. No need to explain further, I suspect.

5. Cooking something wonderful for other people. (Remember this is a perfect day--this doesn't happen every day, though it does happen a lot, because I am me.)

6. Some time alone, whether indulgent or simply quiet and solitary. I tend to think I need this so much because I am an only child, but maybe we all need it--maybe in order to achieve number four, above?

There are probably more things, but these are the ones that came to me first. What would your perfect day include?


goodfellow said...

I agree with your list. I would add that I need some sort of sensual fulfillment -- to smell or see something beautiful; to be inspired by colours, textures or taste; to experience the coldness or warmth of the day, and revel in it...

Funny, you bringing up ironing, but lately I have found myself yearning for one of these http://www.laurastar.com/tab2/system/?4b7bfd981389fb3e29bea5811d7d7d74

(no mere irons for the Swiss -- you would be amazed at how popular these things are here!)

Kel said...

great photo
invites one into the journey with you

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful picture, matched by equally snowy prose-crisp but ethereal all the same.Clean and bracing.. You gave us a lot to think about. Hmm. I think the perfect day for me would address, as does yours, all slices of the proverbial pie-family and home/work/personal body and soul...I'm so glad you included making food on the list. I'd have to say that wouldn't be on mine, but thankfully, eating a wonderful meal is!

ps, have you read that Anne Baxter memoir about quitting her film career and moving with her husband to the australian outback? It reminds me of your experience, a bit...and there's also a wonderful memoir by the woman who wrote that ubiquitous short story The Lottery (the one with the rocks and the black card and the firendly townsfolk stone some hapless victim at the end-standard eighth grade homework assignment)-Anyway, I think her name is Shirley Jackson, and i think the title is Life Among the Savages. It describes her life in Vermont with her kids and her husband, when they decide to leave Manhattan and find the perfect place to write..and raise chickens...anyway, it' s quite amusing.

Anonymous said...

Also, there's a great book Maine Farm, that also reminds me of your lives..it's a book, mostly, of photgraphs marking the seasons at this farm. This couple established a famous organic farm in maine. I forget their names but they are quite well known and have very cool ideas. Except they go clogging a lot. Don't go clogging. The idea of John contra dancing is just too much to bear. :)

Alto2 said...

A perfect day would lack drama, fighting, and whining. A perfect day would include solace, the beach, and a good book. I've set my expectations low, can you tell?

rebecca said...

That Garrison Keillor, he's like a straight shot of dark chocolate to the brain, isn't he?

Let's add great carefree sex to the list somewhere. I mean, since we're going for broke here. And an hours-long talk with a good friend where you sit on the couch with your feet tucked under each other's butts and laugh and laugh and laugh. Remember that???

Froggymama said...

Reading poetry, like Adrienne Rich, or the sonnets, in the tub with candles, lavender sea salts, and a glass of two buck chuck.