3 Things That Make Me Smile
"What are 3 things that make you smile?", Lida asked. This is, of course, a trick question because I smile a lot. When I was young, someone I went to school with frequently criticized me for smiling too much; she thought it made me look naďve. I found it in part laughable and in part sad for her - I don’t think of it as naivety to have a joyful and grateful heart! So, I have updated this passage in a slightly different direction - 3 things that make me smile that most people who know me probably don’t know about.
Prairie Dogs Doing Yoga
I love small animals, and especially enjoy those in the rodent family that I encounter on my walks. It’s like having little adorable outside pets - they stare at you, they do cute things, and they’re harmless so it’s nice to have them around. I’ve been enchanted by prairie dogs ever since I first saw them along my path while working at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Boulder in 1996. They chirp, they wag their tails if I say "Hi there!", they are adorably clumsy, and for lunch, they like to tackle weeds more than 3 times their height…which is hilarious to watch. But there’s one behavior in particular that makes me smile no matter how bad a day I have had.
I first took a yoga class while at Suffolk Community College (Selden, New York). The first set of moves we learned was called "The Salutation to the Sun". The Salutation starts with a big stretch upward, hands over your head, then bending over to place your hands on the floor. Prairie dogs do The Salutation to the Sun. I get to see it when I’ve been through an area a number of times on walks, thus being deemed not so threatening, and it’s a beautiful sunny day. They come out of their holes, stand tall on their hind legs, and stretch their paws up to the sky. The second part of the move has the typical prairie dog grace as they come crashing down to the earth. Then, they look up to make eye contact with you and chirp.
My Favorite Wildflower
My favorite wildflower can be found along highways and in fields - it grows as a tall, stalky weed-like plant with singular lavender flowers popping out of small branches up and down the stalk. It is called chicory. The sight of it has always made me smile. I especially love how the flowers have a glow as if lit from an internal source when silhouetted against a cloudy sky. The first time I saw chicory flowers was on a road trip home from my uncle’s house in the Catskills. We had brought him a catfish - he had started out cute, but soon became the sole resident in the fish tank. He had spines for legs, which enabled him to escape the fish tank and walk around our house at night. My dad feared that, if my mom encountered the catfish out for a stroll some night, well... that might be the end of Mr. Fish. So, he arranged for his brother to donate the fish to a pet store owner he knew. The pet store had a large tank in the front entrance window, which would be the catfish’s new home. So, we brought him on the 3-hour car ride in a bucket. That’s a long time for a fish to be in a bucket filled with water, even one as hearty as a catfish. He was struggling to breathe by the time we got there. Without thinking it through, we all decided we would dump him in my uncle’s fish tank to recover while we had lunch. Mr. Fish also thought it was a great idea! It turns out catfish that like Angel Fish for lunch. Nonetheless, he made it to the pet store, grew very large in his new wall-sized tank, and was a star attraction well into his old age.
Back to the chicory - this story leaves me in a car with an empty bucket on my way back to Long Island from the Catskills. Along one of the roads, I saw the chicory flowers. After hearing quite the soliloquy about the beauty of the flowers and how I wished we had some like that near our house, my dad offered to pull over near the field so I could take a plant home in the bucket. Against all odds (or so I thought at the time, not realizing their hardy weed-like qualities), the transplant lived! And it developed many friends - many, many friends. I found them all delightful, the more the merrier; however, my dad was not entirely sure he liked having part of the front lawn taken over by chicory. The time came for me to go to Colorado for college, and I wished that I would see my favorite flowers anywhere I went. Good news! I see them every morning on my way to work, silhouetted against the Flat Irons (rock formation) of Boulder. There are also a number of plants near the building I work in. They still make me smile whenever I see them, although I have stopped acting on my desire to cover the landscape with chicory flowers.
Salvador Dali’s Artwork
My home and cubicle tend to be decorated with pictures of nature or animals, with the one homage to the X-Files. So,it may come as a surprise that I am a huge fan
of surrealism. I have always found the fluidity of it appealing, as well as the dream-like creativity. Dali is by far my favorite surrealist artist - I was introduced
to his art in high school. In class, the lecture was along the lines of "and then there was surrealism...moving on." I couldn’t get enough of the stuff.
I found books in the library with surrealistic art, and would study it for hours. I never attempted it - these little guys (fuzzies) have been my artistic
outlet - and extent of my artistic capability - since 1987.We had the great pleasure of visiting the Dali museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, while visiting my parents. The entire museum was an experience - let
alone the art within it. The only possible improvement I have seen was Dali with cats, courtesy of Facebook memes.
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Last edited 11Oct2015