Occasionally I’m accused of being a person who is never satisfied with anything.
And it’s hard to argue otherwise.
There are, in my mind, numerous things to be dissatisfied with. All I have to do is step outside, or read the newspapers, to start feeling dissatisfied. The numerous vacant buildings that I drive or walk past on a daily basis are a source of dissatisfaction. So are the potholes I frequently drive over, and the people who honk their horns on my street early in the morning, and the trash I see on the side of the road and hanging from trees.
The trash is always a particular source of discontent. Years ago, one of my old colleagues frequently called the city of Albany to alert them to a plastic bag that had been trapped in the branches of the tree outside her office window for months on end. “This bag has been there for a really long time,” she would say. “Can’t someone remove it?”
Of course no one could remove it. That goes without saying. For all I know, that unsightly plastic bag is still ensnared in that downtown tree, bringing a little bit of ugliness to someone else’s daily view.
A single bag in a single tree isn’t such a big deal. But it’s certainly indicative of a world that’s far from perfect. And I don’t know why I should be satisfied with a world that’s far from perfect. Every day, I find myself asking why the world can’t be better than it is now. It’s hard to read reports of war and joblessness and corruption and crime and just shrug my shoulders and accept it.
That said, there are plenty of things that I find satisfying. Here are some of them:
* Mountains, particularly when I am standing on top of them.
* Seafood, especially lobster, but also shrimp and clams.
* Championship victories by the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins and New England Patriots.
* Good conversation.
* Good jokes.
* My niece, especially when she smiles and acts cute.
* A refreshing swim in a lake, river, ocean or pool.
* Fine cheeses, such as brie and smoked gouda.
* Watching a sunset from the ocean shore.
* Unexpected sightings of wildlife, such as deer, bears, bald eagles and turtles.
* Vacation and travel.
* A tasty craft beer.
* A good concert.
* A good movie.
* A good book.
Reading over my list, one of the things that jumps out at me is its relative simpleness.
Most of the items on it are easily obtainable, and widely available.
Good conversation and good jokes can be had for free. Some concerts are expensive, some are cheap and some cost next to nothing. (Funk legend George Clinton is performing at Alive at Five in Albany this Thursday for free.) Travel can be pricey, but there are good deals to be had, especially if you have friends and family in the right places. And there’s a lot to see and do right in our own backyard.
Last weekend, I managed to pack a lot of satisfaction into three short hours. I drove out to Thacher Park in southwest Albany County to walk the Indian Ladder Trail and look at the waterfalls, which were gushing impressively after two weeks of rain.
This scenic beauty was followed by a delicious breakfast at the Jake Moon Restaurant and Cafe, an out-of-the-way eatery in Clarksville, where I ordered a scramble with smoked gouda and wild mushrooms. On the way back, we stopped at a great little shop called The Cheese Traveler, where I purchased a hunk of brie to take hiking the next day.
The rest of the weekend was pretty good, too.
On Friday I hung out with an old friend from middle school who happened to be in town, and on Saturday I met friends in Saratoga Springs to eat crepes. On Sunday afternoon I ascended a small mountain and ate brie. Everyone I hung out with made me laugh and said interesting things.
Perhaps I value these simple pleasures because my job is rarely a source of satisfaction. I’m always waiting for people to call me back, or trying to find information, or struggling to understand something or articulate an idea. In a way, my work is a series of puzzles that I’m trying to solve, and whenever I complete one, I move on to another.
I’m pretty satisfied right now, as I type the final sentences of this column.
But I’m sure I’ll be my normal dissatisfied self as soon as I arrive at the office in the morning, and start working on the latest puzzle.
Foss Forward makes a weekly appearance in print, in The Gazette’s Saturday Lifestyles section. You can email Sara at firstname.lastname@example.org.