My mom asked me the other day if there was anything I wanted that I wasn’t buying for myself. She does this from time to time, as she lives relatively far away and reasons that if she can’t see me, she can at least spoil me. Very sweet, and I like a little spoiling now and again. At the moment, a fuzzy robe for cool California summer mornings is on its way. It’s an ask-and-ye-shall-receive kind of offer (I barely mentioned the robe on Monday and she’s notified me to be on the postal lookout for it this weekend), so I’ve been trying to think of what that wishlist might entail.
I don’t know if it’s years of living in a place where anything commercially made was virtually impossible to get – it took about six hours of grueling driving on two-lane, windy roads with truckers, bikes, pedestrians and animals – to arrive in San Jose, which offered stuff, but always off-brand varieties that didn’t last for more than six months. I used to pack two 70-pound check-through bags every time I traveled back to Costa Rica, full of clothes, food from Trader Joe’s, electronics, camping gear, you name it. It’s rather comical to think of now, and in another way, kind of nice to remember a place where there just wasn’t anything to buy besides some wooden souvenirs and coconut-shell earrings.
But I digress. It’s either all those years of not having anything to buy, or the same years going on U.S. shopping tours to get all the stuff we “needed”, or it’s all the time spent trying to live low on the consumption chain – I tend to think it’s a combination of all of these, a kind of linked-effect, an un-learning that happened over the years and left me realizing that no amount of kitchen gadgets, pretty clothes, camping gear or electronic toys even come close to providing the same amount of joy that I get from watching my dog play in the ocean; seeing a hummingbird drink from a flower outside my office window; waking up to hundreds of chattering parakeets; or hearing a laughing falcon off in the distance for months, and finally seeing him in a tree perched high above the canopy.
The shopping and the stuff is necessary to some extent, and fun – for me these days, to a lesser extent, depending on company and purpose, but in the end, the things you buy for yourself and the things you buy for other people are only as valuable as their intent, the energy and thought behind them, the spirit of the giving itself.
Headline image © Steve Broyles, Sandcruiser.com