Wednesday, December 22, 2010


I was looking at the December issue of Vogue the other day, and there was a whole page of thoughtful gift ideas for the people I love, and a couple of the items had "price upon request" in parentheses next to them--like the platinum and diamond whatever-you're-going-to drop-it-down-the-bathroom-drain-one-day-and-you'll-be-screwed. And I was like "eeewwwww."

Because, A) I can't imagine buying my mom something for Christmas that is too expensive to have a price tag on it because that's unbelievably gross. And B) if you think about it, all the luxuries--the things in life that make you feel really, legitimately good--are things people have been paying zero dollars for, for like 200,000 years. And even now, allowing for inflation, if they're not free they're still super cheap.

Fire: So, we have this wood stove, and basically it's turned our living room into the veldt, and my family into a herd of really lazy lions. Virginia calls what we do in front of the fire "wallerin," which, when translated into English from the original Appalachian, means "the opposite of doing manual labor." Anyway, what is more luxurious than a fire? Looking at a fire, feeling warm, messing with the fire, catching things on fire.... Fire is amazing.

Sunlight: Sunlight is basically like fire, only if I had to choose between sunlight and fire, I'd choose sunlight because my favorite day of every year is the day in March when the sun gets to that point where it's perfectly warm--you know that day? And so you drag a quilt out into the yard and lie there totally spread-eagle and maybe there are some clouds that obscure the sun for a while, and you're like "dammit clouds--go away!" but then the clouds do go away and you're like "awwwww yeeeeah," because somehow the existence of the clouds just made the sunshine 10% nicer than it had been before. And you guys, I just thought about it and decided I would pay $300 for that day in March if it wasn't already free. But it IS free. It's free!

Water: I used to live in the desert, and I loved some things about it: the weird plants and the stars at night and the sunsets--oh, the sunsets! But I couldn't live there forever because there weren't any places to swim. And every time I took a shower, I felt like I was killing a puppy.

Something about me: I work for an environmental nonprofit that protects rivers in Georgia, so it's kind of my job to be conscientious about my water use. But my secret shame is that I bet I shower as often as Ryan Seacrest. Because if I feel bad--if I'm sick or depressed or angry--the only thing that will make me feel better is an irresponsibly long and contemplative shower. I only hope the work I do 40 hours a week makes up for it.

Really Good Food: My dad has a garden--like a big-ass one with a perimeter of hurricane fence festooned with garlands of prison-grade razor wire to keep out the deer. Daddy can grow THE HELL out of some vegetables, and every year about the first week in July he calls me and says "come out and get some truck" (Appalachian-English translation: "truck"="vegetables") and I'm like, "is now good for you? Because I started rifling through your tomato plants 45 minutes ago."

So, you want to know my 2nd favorite day of the year? It's the one where I get a couple of really juicy, big tomatoes, an onion, a few Japanese eggplants, some yellow squash and a handful of fresh basil leaves and chop it all up together and cook it down a little bit. Then I eat it over rice in my bathing suit on the back porch with the ceiling fan going. No meal tastes better than that, and it only costs me like $.45 for the rice because my dad's an agricultural genius.

Touches: It is a well documented fact that people love sex. I would even go as far as to suggest that sex feeling good is the #1 reason for the existence of 99% of all the people you're always seeing all the time.

But more than anything else, people just like to be touched by other people. It makes us feel better. The other night, I rubbed my 92-year-old grandmother's feet until she went to sleep because she just got hip surgery and she's cranky and she deserved it--we all deserve it. Sometimes when I'm feeling not great, I just want someone to hug me. Nothing weird--just a smile and a hug and a little pat on the head. And all that is free--or it should be if you play your cards right.

Laughing: Seriously, you guys. How great is laughing? I love it so much, if the people I know weren't already so funny, I would pay a ton of money for someone to make me laugh.

So, all that's really luxurious, right? What am I missing?


  1. Your thoughts of summer vegetables warmed me up on this December day, and I have to add a special shout-out to baby laughing, because there's really no greater luxury than a kid's belly laugh.

  2. As a desert creature, I'm totally with you on the water thing. It actually has magical properties, as best exemplified by a desert rainstorm. In fact, when I lived in GA I was freaked out by how much water there was - like a peasant going to a really opulent palace. It was especially weird because the first few years I was there, GA was in a drought ... which was still exponentially more rain than I had ever seen.

  3. beautiful post, jcs. i love that first day of real sunshine to pieces - it's my favorite day of every year too. only for us in new england it don't arrive til sometime in May...maybe i need to have you call me up the morning it arrives in GA and I'll get on a plane and then I'll get two of Those Days!