Simple pleasures

I’m trying to take my Shabbat consciousness and bring it to my everyday life at least some of the time. By Shabbat consciousness I mean being aware of what is happening in the moment and attempting to not think about plans or goals – cultivating a sense of satisfaction.

This year begins and I’m most struck by how satisfied I am by simple activities.

Example I: Today there is no work. I wake up, wash, and put in my contact lenses, then stroll into the kitchen, turn, and take a large onion out of the pantry. I peel the onion and slowly slice it into thin slices. photo(1)My eyes tear a little as I separate the thin rings of onion. I warm the iron skillet and after a few moments pour in a fair amount of grape-seed oil until it looks hot but is not yet smoking. I scrape the onions into the skillet and hear the loud sizzle as the thin rings hit the pan. I stir them with a wooden spoon and lower the heat. The aroma is wonderful. I’ll let the onions cook for 20 minutes. After they caramelize they are sweet, no longer sharp and tear provoking. I think about how amazing it is that a simple onion can go from pungent to sweet in 20 minutes! How lovely! They will be the main filler for the omelet I prepare for Al and me. Delicious!

Example II: Lately I’ve been cutting through the weeds in our garden. The blackberries and anise stalks have taken over. We have a large backyard area because our lot is a standard size lot in San Francisco and our house is quite small. There is an enormous amount of space for blackberries, anise, vines, all kinds of native-growing wild foliage to thrive – with or without a drought. The weeds have grown so high over the years. Between my day job and taking classes I didn’t think there was time for working out back so the weeds flourished.

photo-1Sometimes I liked the jungle-like appearance back there but now I’d like to help create a space where my grandchildren will be able to play. Every day I go out back and weed for 1 ½ to 2 hours. I cut through the brush, pile the debris in the front of the yard and then cut the branches to fit into huge garden waste bags. I hear the birds and smell the earth and breathe the fresh air. All I have to do is step outside my own house and I’m in nature. What a pleasure it is to simply cut weeds, hear birds, and smell the earth.

Example III: My good friend calls me in the morning. “Do you want to walk to the top of Bernal Hill?” she asks. Yes, surely I do. I eat breakfast, get dressed and we start out on our walk, catching up on what is new for each of us. We see a woman two blocks away and my friend asks her if she took art classes with her. The woman did not, though she is an artist and attends art meet-ups that my friend may want to attend. We talk with her for quite a while and we’re all quite happy to stand outside talking about our lives. My friend and I walk further, continuing our conversation about things we’re going to do in the New Year, about children, grandchildren, life, how lovely the day is. We walk for 1 1/2 hours and make it to the top of Bernal Hill. The view is amazing and the walk back is lovely also. We both know how lucky we are to be able to walk 9 miles up and down hills. We don’t take this for granted.

photo (22)Sweet onions, birds, weeds, earth, friends, conversations, sunny days, walking up and down hills – I am grateful for these simple pleasures.

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