I love Peggy. On the wall over my monitor is something she wrote on yellow scrap paper 20 years ago, which is but half as long as we've been married. It’s as true for how I see her as for how she sees me.
“I love Lowell 100 million billion trillion times over. I love him sooooooooooooo much. He is the best man, and I love him.
Love Love Love Love Love”
I love plants. I feel more life emanating from plants than from people. My delusion probably comes from the fact that plants are fully here and fully now. They are blessedly free from even as the possibility of deception. Rocks are also our superiors in that regard. So it is with nearly every being that our species looks down upon (which is to say every being but ourselves). If Peggy loved them too, I would fill the house with plants. I’m especially drawn to potted plants during the winter when most outdoor plants are homely, and when it’s too wet and cold to enjoy sitting on the ground. It’s as if I inhale their essence when I’m among plants and, unlike mine, their essence is pure.
I love to dig holes. I love the beauty of the tools; the changing colors and textures of the earth; the feel of the work inside my body; the odors and the coolness; my unusual vantage point of the world; the occasional pebble, fossil, earthworm, or human artifact; and the knowledge that I might unearth a treasure of one kind or another. When I lie in bed at night and fantasize that my pain is gone, the first thing I want to do is to dig a hole.
I love habanero peppers, which are the hottest peppers I can find (sixty times hotter than jalapenos). They’re so hot that they make the top of my head sweat, and my hands hurt all night and into the next day if I don’t wear gloves while cutting them. I started eating habaneros years ago as a treatment for Raynaud’s Disease, overcame the agony of the heat enough to enjoy the high—they go especially well with marijuana—and found that they helped the Raynaud’s so much that I’m rarely bothered by it.
I love caps. Hats look better, but they don’t shade the eyes as well; you can’t pull a hood over them; most of them can’t take rough handling; they’re a nuisance when it’s windy; and, last but not least, the brim hits the headrests in cars. The only thing caps don’t do well is to keep rain from running down my neck, but it only rains here in the winter, so I just raise my hood over my cap, and the cap keeps it from coming down over my eyes.
I love rocks for their beauty, their stories, and their antiquity. Even here in the geologically young Willamette Valley, it’s possible to find rocks that go back 40-million years. These youngsters are 400,000 times older than a 100-year-old person. I study the strata in cliff faces; I dig charred wood from pyroclastic flows; I pry globe-like concretions from roadcuts; I try to feel the story of the fossils that lie buried in my backyard. Sometimes, I even sleep with rocks because—in my imagination anyway—they emanate a force. I had once hoped that force would heal me, but it couldn’t, although, as with plants, rocks can bring the joy and comfort that allows me to live despite the pain.
I love shopping at Goodwill. Half of me goes nuts over secondhand bric-a-brac, but the other half hates a cluttered house, so it’s an anguished love, but an inextinguishable love nonetheless. Besides, everything is so cheap that I figure I can always buy something to replace something I already have, and then pass on what I replaced. I can also buy things for other people, enabling me to enjoy Goodwill while dumping the curse of clutter onto them, but also giving them something that I love, that I hope they will love, and that I purchased with thought and affection.
I love my room—see photo. The walls are pink, and I have lots of plants, though not so many as I want.
I love marijuana. One-fourth of a small sugar cookie, and my world is born anew. Music and language swim in the periphery of my vision; colors assume such depth that I become disoriented. I feel thoughts well up as if from depths unimagined. I am overcome by the knowledge that trees, dogs, cats, potted plants—all the things I love—have an immediacy and an intensity that is beyond expression. I become so enamored of the history and creativity behind the fifty-year-old kitsch at Goodwill that I want to buy it all in honor of the people who made it and loved it all those years ago. I become more patient and tolerant; I see my worries from a realistic perspective, and they’re always less scary than I imagined.
I love writing. I live through the written word just as a photographer lives through a viewfinder. This makes it very hard for me to be close to anyone who really and truly has no interest in what I write because what I write is the deepest part of me, at least the deepest part of me that I can touch.
I love reading because it teaches me things and it allows me to visit other people’s worlds. I read about plants, geology, and home repair. I also like biographies, Westerns and books of cartoons—especially Gary Larson. My taste in biography tends to run to people who were hated like Benedict Arnold or Bonnie and Clyde. My only problem with reading is that I never seem to do it as much as I would like.
You might think that I’ve expressed a few surprising thoughts for an atheist, yet I couldn’t love these things nearly so much if I believed—like many do—that they are flawed forms of a once perfect reality. If I have a religion, it lies in nature because nature is all there is, and we’re each a part of it, and therefore a part of one another, and of everything else too.