Once my charming brother and his wife gave me a birthday present of a gift certificate from a bonsai tree store. I was so excited--I had previously expressed how interested I was in cactus. I went to the bonsai tree store, looked assiduously into what kinds to buy, and returned home with the very best possible breed of bonsai for me--a bonsai tree book. From that book, I learned about all these really cool bonsai trees and traditions--and conclusively learned that the hobby required far too much skill and care for my "love plants but am brown thumbed" skills.
Similarly, I own books which catalog all the myriad aquarium fishes known to the trade. Still, when I set up an aquarium (and I am in that finny mood now that means another is on the way) I stick to simple easy to grow fish. My last tank, a feeder guppy tank, grew generation of generation of wildly colored happy fish, a sort of breathing dada generator of the neptunic soul, which I dismantled only to give to the neighbor girl when we left CA. But if you read all my many fish books, lots of which are out of date books from the early days of the aquarium trade, you might deduce that I keep only the most exotic amazon mudskippers or the most ornate fish found only in puddles in the Central African Republic. Actually, though, I am a bit judgmental about people who capture exotic species from the wild, because I think more than enough species exist in the hobby already, and we don't need new ones dredged from their happy remote mud holes and planted here. As the snakehead fish migrates all over the south, wreaking havoc, I see pragmatic reasons for my feelings as well.
I've written before about how impressed I am with the incredible diversity and intricacy of hobbies. There are not 25 species and cultivars of orchids, there are thousands. There are not three paths of Tarot, there are as many paths as any random number generator could generate.
But I want to sing my song of off-key simple praise for hobbies which amuse without costing much effort or much money. I have books of cacti which describe hundreds upon hundreds of exotic and ornate cacti. But my own succulent collection is "snake plant" (sansiviera), mammillaria, simple euphorbia "milk-plant" and similar "hard to kill without malicious intent" plants. I could do, of course, the rain forest epiphytic cacti which require work. But I love simple green cacti.
Similarly, I am second to none in my admiration of sporting and war and wild huge kites of every stripe, but my heart is always warmed by the idea that all my kites cost one digit or two digit numbers, and they always fly within two minutes of when I launch them.
It will be no surprise that in church I only really enjoy songs sung in unison. It is similarly no surprise that I play the kazoo more than any musical instrument, and the autoharp a close second. I do not believe that a kazoo is as cool as, say, a Chapman Stick, that wild and interesting but hard to play instrument. I just say that I like things that make me smile, and cost me no trouble.
Tonight a mail artist sent me a stamped postcard. On the postcard was a photo of the mail artist wearing a plastic mask. The card invited me to decorate the mask, and return it to the sender.
I drew a beard and glasses on in blue ink, put a star on the forehead and the words "peace, love, hope", and titled it "Blue Hippie Prof". It's not great art, but it sure was simple fun.
I love Chartres Cathedral--stained glass that took decades to perfect. But for me, please, could I give you a dollar and get from you a three inch cactus that will live a decade; oh, and might we take a used aquarium and rescue some feeder guppies from a short life as potential Oscar fish food?