Stopping to smell the roses: 111 things that always make me smile

It’s been a rough month or so, following my grandfather’s death, but I’m ready to get back into the habit of blogging, and I think I should start again with a list of things that always make me happy. Life is too short to walk around with a heavy heart. Sometimes you just need to stop and smell the roses.

I’ve written up a list of simple pleasures –most of which don’t cost a thing– that never fail to make me feel better. It started off as a list of one hundred things, but then I lost track of my numbering and I don’t particularly care to prune back a list of things that bring me pleasure. I ended up at 111, and I like that number –don’t worry, the list doesn’t have anything to do with my fondness for odd numbers– so that’s how many there now are. They’re in no particular order, but I was careful not to repeat myself. Some of them are particular to me, but a lot of them must have a broad appeal. Hopefully there’s something in there that speaks to you the same way it speaks to me. See what you think:

1.) Fresh sheets, straight from the dryer to your mattress before they’ve even had time to cool down.

2.) An old song coming on the radio, and remembering where you first heard it.

3.) A steaming cup of coffee to soothe away the troubles of the world and prepare you for a new day.

4.) Weather that lets you wear a favourite garment out of season. Be it a warm snap in the winter or a cool day in summer, there’s something lovely about digging through your closet and saying, “Today’s the day for you, old friend.”

5.) The last hundred pages of a good book, and refusing to put the story down until you’ve seen it through to the end.

6.) That first day of spring where you notice buds on the trees and see fresh green shoots nuzzling their way up from the cold ground. There’s something magical in seeing the world wake up from its slumber.

7.) The echoing silence of Robarts Library. I don’t think I’ve made it a secret how much I love books. Robarts is holy ground to me. I’ve asked for a third of my ashes to be scattered on the ground when the time comes.

8.) Watching the sun rise when you haven’t been to bed yet, and knowing you earned the night that has just transpired.

9.) Sleeping all day, so that you miss the sun, but wake up refreshed –without regrets– and ready to face a new day for you, even though it is the end of the day for many.

10.) Meeting a woman for the first time, and that 30 seconds where she decides her opinion of you.

11.) Warming your hands over a fire, and feeling the stinging discomfort as a good and necessary thing.

12.) Eating food you find boring with a hunger that lends it flavour to the point where it becomes one of the best meals of your life. There have been a lot of ‘something-out-of-a-can-quick’ that I have enjoyed out of all proportion to their actual merits.

13.) Being on the inside of an inside joke.

14.) Enjoying a thought or a memory –picked up in your mind like a curio from a shelf– that you could never explain to another person.

15.) The smell and texture and warmth of fresh baked bread.

16.) Feeling the sun on your arms.

17.) Whistling a tune with a bounce in your step as you walk like you’ve got somewhere to be. Sooner or later, you get there.

18.) Doing hard manual labour that impresses others, and the glow of pride in a deed well-done.

19.) Honest sweat, dried on your brow, so that your skin feels gritty and tight.

20.) Eating kalamata olives, and wondering what the olive grove they came from is like.

21.) My scarf that my sister knit for me. It took her three winters, but I’ll have that scarf until the day I die, if I can help it.

22.) I have an old leather jacket –it was my father’s before me– and even after all these years I still get compliments about it even now. I’m sad when I put it away in the winter, but I look forward to the joy of taking it out again in the spring again.

23.) Sitting on a bar’s patio with a pint and a couple of friends, chatting about anything and everything until the day is done.

24.) Contemplating the promise and peace of an old age to come after a life well-lived.

25.) Running your fingers through your hair, and making a fist at the back of your head, then that moment of indecision when you’re done: Do you fix your hair afterwards? It felt so good to mess it up…

26.) Laundry dried in the sun, and the smell of it that lasts long afterwards in your closet.

27.) An old wooden desk under a window with a good chair, and the promise of what can be done with just a little time committed to such a thing.

28.) A hot bath in a tub big enough for me. I’m 6’3″; they’re hard to find, so I enjoy them immensely when I come across them.

29.) Knowing the names of wildflowers, and taking the time to collect a fistful for a purpose you haven’t quite decided on yet.

30.) The smell of sautéed mushrooms, and the anticipation of having them on your plate. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner, mushrooms make it better.

31.) Recognizing friends by smell, or the cadence of their footsteps, or the shape their shadow casts onto the ground as they come up behind you.

32.) Contemplating the stories that a boulder could tell you, and having the time for something so simultaneously deep and frivolous.

33.) Salt.

34.) Discovering a new author, and reading through each of his or her works in turn. There’s a palpable feeling of momentum as your enthusiasm builds and build,s until you reach the end and yearn for more.

35.) A hug, not in greeting or in mourning or in farewell, but from the heart.

36.) A firm handshake with a double pump, and knowing the impact such a thing can have on the people involved.

37.) Sitting in a brass-studded leather chair, and feeling the strength of that dignified piece of furniture beneath you.

38.) The freedom of a place of your own, however mean. That’s your home, and your place in the world finds its center there.

39.) Waking up in the morning on your own inclination, without the use of an alarm clock.

40.) Feeling long grass against your calves as you walk through a field.

41.) Organ music reverberating off the stone walls of a church or a cathedral. I’m not a particularly religious man, but there’s something holy in that sound.

42.) Knowing a thing, but having the discipline to keep it to yourself.

43.) The sound of the wind in the trees.

44.) The crisp metallic scent of autumn, and the colour of the leaves, and the shushing sound they make as you walk through them.

45.) A slice of my mother’s pumpkin pie with nothing on it. You should take the edge of your fork to shave off just the smallest portion possible at a time, savouring each mouthful in turn as a little miracle only to be experienced a few times each year between October and December.

46.) Having a pocket mended, so that you can trust it again.

47.) Watching a favourite movie or television program with someone new, and enjoying it through their eyes.

48.) Having imperceptible scars on your hands, so that they look strong and masculine.

49.) A cup of tea before bed.

50.) Sleeping nude with just a sheet in the summer heat.

51.) Sleeping with pajama bottoms and three blankets on a cold night.

52.) Having clean teeth, so that you can run your tongue around the inside of your mouth and find nothing temporary or unwelcome there.

53.) Watching women walk the streets in the summertime.

54.) Knowing you look your age. At my age that’s not a bad thing…

55.) A hot shower, with a pot of coffee waiting for you when you get out.

56.) Preparing diligently for a difficult task that you are designed to fail, and pulling it off with such élan that no one know how scared you were beforehand.

57.) Knowing there is cold, congealed, yesterday’s pizza sitting in the fridge. No day ends badly when you come home to that.

58.) Taking care of a houseplant, and watching it thrive.

59.) Tugging on your beard in absent thought. I’m clean-shaven at the moment, but I miss the beard just for that reason.

60.) Those delicious few seconds when you wake up too early, but before you fall back to sleep, when you are as comfortable as you are when you dream but you’re awake enough to enjoy it.

61.) Looking through old photographs and remembering the triumphs and follies of your youth.

62.) Walking with a smile on your face, waiting for someone to smile back at you, vindicating your pleasure.

63.) Being blameless, but keeping that to yourself. Sometimes you can find pleasure in nobly taking the blame.

64.) Giving credit where it’s due –without prompting or expecting a quid pro quo– because it’s the right thing to do. It’s much better to enjoy your own triumphs and allow others the same privilege than to seek out gratification in the efforts of someone else.

65.) Knowing all the words to a song that never comes on the radio. That song belongs to you, at that moment, just as much as it belongs to the artist.

66.) Petting a dog, and knowing that all he or she wants is your attention.

67.) Having a cat on your lap, and knowing that it chose to be there.

68.) Making a decision for the future that takes the worry out of the present. You can find a lot of peace in adversity by setting your course and resolving to stick to it through thick or thin.

69.) Buying a new suit, and knowing good things are going to happen to you when you wear it.

70.) Finding a new artist or band, and enjoying their work without anyone telling you what to look for.

71.) The success of a friend at one of his or her ambitions for which you have no personal inclination, so that you can be genuinely happy for their triumph without the guilt of envy taking something away from the moment.

72.) Looking out the same window, day in and day out, and watching the changes in weather, in season, in length of day.

73.) Algonquin Provincial Park. Winter, spring, summer, or fall, that is where heaven reaches down and rests upon the Earth. Another third of my ashes are going to be scattered there, in time.

74.) A&W Root Beer from a fountain tap.

75.) Having nothing to do, and appreciating that rarity.

76.) Finishing a long and involved personal project –like writing a book– and being truly satisfied with the result.

77.) Watching loved ones open Christmas presents Christmas morning. There comes a time in each person’s life when the giving means more than the receiving. That’s the moment when you are truly an adult.

78.) Knowing how much your family look forward to your visits. They love you just for you, and your time together is enough to anticipate with pleasure. That’s a wonderful thing.

79.) A pint of Strongbow cider in a noisy bar, and thinking about England while you drink it.

80.) Looking forward to a first date with an interesting woman, when all that will transpire is still out in front of you.

81.) My glasses fogging up when I step in out of the cold, and those moments where you navigate by instinct.

82.) Being out in a canoe, and the gentle pressure of your paddle moving through the water.

83.) Riding the subway above ground on a sunny day when the car is almost empty, and watching the play of light and shadow across the floor and wall.

84.) Waking up from a bad dream with the relief that it wasn’t real, and that no one else experienced it.

85.) Having just that little bit of extra money, so that you’re free to buy yourself a drink or a meal, without the temptation to purchase things you don’t need and won’t use.

86.) Contemplating a bright future that could happen, even if it is one of only many possibilities.

87.) Putting your socked feet up against a space heater until you can’t take it anymore.

88.) Reading a good book over and over again, and finding something new to enjoy about it each and every time.

89.) Knowing your way around a big city, so that each landmark you pass is like an old friend, and you have a story to share together.

90.) The smell of a hot, drying street after a sudden summer rain.

91.) The poetry of Robert Frost.

92.) Having a friend to confide in, secure in the absolute trust that he or so is not judging you as you say your piece.

93.) Playing poker for small stakes, so that the enjoyment is worth more than the losses, and the victory is not worth more than the experience.

94.) Going out in a boat on a cold day, and feeling the chill of the deep beneath you.

95.) Singing in the car or in the shower for the sheer pleasure of it.

96.) Oranges cut up into wedges.

97.) Cold lasagna: It’s a totally different experience from when it was hot. It’s heavier, thicker, stronger. It fights you, as if it doesn’t want to be eaten. It’s a battle you can’t help but win, though, so your triumph is assured.

98.) Taking a walk in a warm rain, so that you don’t care how drenched you get.

99.) Flipping up the collar of your coat to hold off a stiff autumn breeze.

100.) Hearing birds sing in the trees, and wondering what they’re talking about. Looking for love? Defending their home? Or do they do it just because it feels right? Ten thousand dramas are playing out around you each day, and sometimes they come with a beautiful sound.

101.) Having faith in the strength of your own character. When faced with adversity, you can draw upon your own resources and overcome. There’s a comfort in that certainty.

102.) Being good at a job that would baffle people whose intelligence you deeply respect.

103.) Splitting a case of beer with friends, and not caring about the mess while you do it.

104.) Going skating outdoors, and feeling the wind against your face as you glide across a frozen world with a grace and ease that must be how the eagles feel when they drift across the sky.

105.) Indian cotton prints, tacked up to my walls like tapestries. It’s so much better than mere paint. Their patterns bring character into my home, and sometimes when the light hits them just right I feel like I’m worshiping a religion I’ve never heard of.

106.) Knowing what you’re talking about on an esoteric subject.

107.) Going to a wedding. Being a part of the happiest day of someone’s life is a moving experience, and the fact that they decided to share it with you should warm you all the way down to your toes.

108.) Shoveling snow after a blizzard, and knowing you did a good job that won’t have to be repeated again for a while.

109.) Being an inspiration to someone younger than you.

110.) Stretching out on the sofa at the end of a long day, and sighing dramatically even though there’s no one there to hear it.

111.) That first bite into a crisp, juicy apple. There’s a texture, and a taste, and a sound, and a smell, and there’s the sight of a little juice flying away from your face. It’s a symphony of sensation. All of life should be so marvelous.

Well, there you go. Those things always make me feel better. Anyone care to add something? Your comments are always welcome.


8 thoughts on “Stopping to smell the roses: 111 things that always make me smile

  1. Thanks for finding the time to put this interesting ideas together. I’ll certainly bookmark your blog to return again. Carry on the good job. By the way, your RSS feed is unable to function in my web browser (google chrome) just how can I remedy it?

  2. Pingback: Stopping to smell the roses: 111 things that always make me smile | Indian Today

  3. Seana

    I so appreciate the list, but I have to add two:

    Slipping your bare feet into plush slippers, completing an already comfortable and snappy bed-time ensemble.

    Catching a glimps of something vaguely familiar reflected in window glass and quickly turning around to catch it.

  4. tina vangeninden

    As i walk in the rain, without a raincoat or an umbrella, i love the feeling of my bare feet splashing in the puddles i walk through, i reminds me to be free……

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