From my front porch, evidence that spring has sprung is found in every site-line. Flowers budding and daffodils leading the color parade with the first real splash of color. Chipmunks scurrying across the lawn and diving into dozens of secret underground entrances carved into our front yard. Woodpeckers drumming, and cardinals, nuthatches, finches, titmice, and other feathered friends voicing their distinctive chirps seemingly as a reminder to me to keep their feeders fully stocked. As days are getting longer and nights are getting shorter, a tad warmer weather breaks through the nip of the morning in the Appalachians, encouraging extended porch-rocking for us and ball-tossing time for eager puppies.
I’m a tree guy. Squinting skyward, the gazillion buds of the mixed, mainly deciduous oak forest that canopy our property bring a smile and evidence of the mountains waking up after a winter’s nap. The lower elevations of the Blue Ridge consist of several varieties of oaks and sourwood, maples, hickories, yellow birch, yellow buckeye, white ash, locust, American beech, and tulip poplars. Widespread conifers include white pines, red spruce, and hemlocks.
As I admire their stateliness, I conclude that trees are underrated. For sure, we appreciate them, but we take them for granted. They represent life, growth, tranquility, and nature. They provide shade, water, and clean air. They persevere, even in the harshest of conditions. They are the best metaphor for staying deep-rooted in love and life, kith and kin, as well as for humble beginnings — “The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn,” aptly noted Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Appreciating Underrated — An Individual Experience
As I looked to the trees reaching skyward, I got to thinking about what else is underrated that we often fail to appreciate. My own personal definition of the word is that underrated also implies that pleasure or satisfaction is derived from a simple activity or occurrence. In no particular order, a few came to my mind and to those of a few friends. I hope this list makes you nod in agreement and appreciate life’s small joys … and the trees.
- A long, hot shower. The closer to scalding without going over that painful line, the better. Water bill be damned, the hot soak, especially delivered with a high-pressure shower head, is wondrous. If you’re not exiting a steam-room environment afterward, you’d didn’t do it right.
- Related to the shower, hugging a towel right after it comes out of the dryer.
- Entering a room where your dogs are laying and being greeted with wagging tails, grateful “Dad!” eyes, and swinging, wiggling rumps. Even if you just visited the space 15 minutes ago. The longer the period apart, the more their love is brandished. Can’t beat it. (Confession: Sometimes you solely receive the thump, thump, thump of recognition-tails on the floor from near-napping pups.) Corollary 1: The zoomies. Corollary 2: Lying on the floor and feeling your four-legged best friend’s breath and heartbeat.
- Doing the work. Most times, we don’t need more time, more money, another blueprint, the fourth check of policies … and certainly not more excuses. Measure twice and cut once is paramount, but just doing the work is too often underrated. Corollary to this: Done is better than perfect. Just do the work. Get it done. Do what’s in front of you.
- Cheese Doritos + Shredded Cheddar Cheese + Three Minutes in the microwave.
- Unexpected mail or messages left on the kitchen counter or your desk, especially love-stuff and just-because sercies.
- Picking things up with your toes and deftly transferring them up to your hands instead of bending down to pick them up.
- Cuddling. Corollary: Holding hands.
- Finding a coin on the ground. No matter heads or tails, it’s an unexpected mini-reward for just being “there,” especially if it’s silver. But pennies, too. Into the pocket, into the change jar.
- A post-it note on the mirror with words of encouragement.
- First snow of the season.
- Infectious, milk-through-the-nose laughter that brings happy tears and sore smile-muscles.
- The perfect, grilled, overstuffed ham-and-cheese sandwich, Chicago-style.
- Picking up the tab for the person in the car behind you in the Starbucks line … and driving away without scoping for a reaction.
- The fast-forward on the remote. No commercials for this boy. Doubly underrated is when you time the fast-forward button to perfection, snapping to the precise spot that returns you to your program.
- Letting someone who has fewer grocery items jump ahead of you in line or extending the same courtesy to senior citizens.
- Catching up on a bit of casual reading from the privacy of one’s porcelain office suite.
- Flipping the pillow to the cool side and making your head happy again. Corollary: Cold pillow and clean sheets on a hot summer night (or comfy heavy blanket on a cold winter night).
- The nine extra minutes your alarm gives you … and the next nine … and the next nine.
- Small habits, daily rituals, and sticking with fundamentals. Routine may not be sexy, but it is sooooo essential … and undervalued.
- US parks.
- Blowing fallen leaves each fall. It’s therapeutic. Not really sure why. Perhaps it’s the constant reward, with every pass of the blower, of seeing waves of leaves rising up and moving forward with and toward a pile of their brothers and sisters. There is, also, the satisfaction of actually seeing one’s yard and driveway again.
- Watchful neighbors.
- Spontaneous dancing with your significant other.
- Theatrically and resoundingly accompanying Elvis, Garth, BillyJ, MarvinG, JohnP, Sweet Baby James, the Fab Four, the Temptations and the Eagles from the solitude of one’s driver’s seat, absolutely-positively-categorically convinced that you sound darned good. (Sidebar: You probably don’t, but don’t let that stop you.)
- Patience. Some things just take time.
- The first bud on a tomato plant.
- Multiple sprays of a white Phalaenopsis or “moth orchid.”
- Rain patter on a metal roof.
- Being away from the city for the first time in a while and remembering what stars look like. Or catching a firefly in the darkness.
- Family game night and having family nearby to have an impromptu game night.
- Cracking a deadpan joke and seeing a smile; not a laugh, just a smile.
- Forgetting what it’s like to have to bundle up to walk outside … or even put on shoes.
- The first bite of a fresh strawberry. Corollary: Eating a vegetable/fruit that you’ve grown in your own garden/hothouse.
- Laying down in the grass.
- Making snow angels. Corollary: Laying on the warm sand.
- Entering a bakery and smelling the just-baked bread and other sweet stuff.
- Afternoon/Power naps. Corollary: Waking early out of habit, realizing it’s your day off, and trying to reconnect with that elusive dream.
- Old photo albums chock-full of childhood and family memories.
- Toddlers’ squeals of joy and quick little steps in no particular direction.
- Highlighting something in a book, forgetting it, then finding it again.
- Seeing a child climb a tree.
Addendum from LSomerbyCooke:
I extend sincere thanks to my awesome workmates at Spinnaker Group for their input to this list.