Carl Wernicke: Small Spring Pleasures

Apr 8, 2014

Credit IHMC

I try to enjoy the small things in life. Because if you can only enjoy big things, or the expensive things, you spend a lot of time not having a good time. 

Unfortunately, losing the ability to be easily entertained is one of the downsides of growing up. As children we are easily amused; armed with little more than a good stick and my imagination, as a child I could play for hours. And, to be truthful, I still think a good stick found in the woods is a treasure, although most other children seem to have grown up and moved on.

 Still, it’s a shame to fail to find the joy in everyday life.

For example, I imagine most people did not enjoy our bitterly cold winter. But I got a certain thrill from it, especially the rare ice storm in January. It’s not often in Northwest Florida that you get to pile on all your warmest clothes and crunch through ice. I ran into a neighbor with the same mindset, and we spent a long walk marveling at the iced-over drainage ditches, the frosted asphalt and even our arctic-friendly get-ups.

Now spring has sprung, bringing its own memories. One good memory is walking in New Orleans and seeing the second- and third-floor residential balconies over businesses in the Quarter. Early morning walks require watching out for residents watering their balcony plants and sending the overflow spilling through the planked flooring and onto your head. I don’t know why I like seeing this so much, maybe because it seems so human, an effort to soften a hard-edged urban environment with flowers and ferns.

What brought this mind was walking through downtown Pensacola last week and having to dodge an early morning balcony rain. I like seeing this sign of residential life above Palafox Street, but it also triggered the pleasant New Orleans memories. Walks should stimulate the mind, which is why philosophers and writers value them so. And spring stimulates the desire to walk. My short walk on Palafox set up my whole day by refreshing happy memories.

   And speaking of small things, there is the red-bellied woodpecker who has for three years now been a loud and prominent presence on our bird feeder. This spring he was joined by his mate, not to mention a new attitude. The first year, he would flee and not return for hours anytime I emerged to refill the feeder. Last year he would perch on a nearby tree, and return after a few minutes. Earlier this year he began to sit on the tree holding the feeder, watch me fill it, and pounce on it practically before I get back inside.

Over the winter he began verbally chiding me when the feeder ran empty, which seems pretty cheeky. He has now taken to rattling the empty feeder with rapid-fire pecks if I fail to keep it filled.

This strikes me as downright impertinent. But I know that one day I will suddenly realize the woodpecker is no longer there, so I intend to enjoy the fun while I can. You just can’t beat this kind of entertainment with a stick.