“I just can’t live without them.” Really? A gross exaggeration or exaggeration for effect by a angst filled teenager when asked to forgo something. Or by an adult trying to make a point with humor knowing full well they will not be taken seriously…an exaggeration based on a cause for pleasure in one’s life or meaning. But yes, I know there are those things without which life ceases to continue. Beyond the necessities of air, water, sufficient food to keep functioning, and shelter, I find I must study my own wants to discover what makes my life meaningful.

Turk’s cap blooms

I have a small plaque on my bookcase that was purchased for a friend. At the time of her death, it was returned to me, but it was unopened. I wondered if she ever read the quotation on the small stone rectangle. “I cannot live without books.” Thomas Jefferson

Books are a weakness of mine. I have been warned that my office, housed in what was once a balcony, might fall off the back of the house due to the weight of the books there. That is really not a possibility because the floor is slanted, and the bookcases are secured firmly to the studs in the walls to insure they are level. But it is not just the physical books or the information and entertainment in the books that are of import for me.

I think the most important thing in my life for which life would lose meaning if it was gone, is the ability to learn new things. Each book I read, each thing I examine, each activity I do provides new knowledge, a new skill, a new understanding of the world and of myself.

Tuesday, I walked in the woods below the house along the north boundary creek and noticed that we had a frost Monday night. I discerned this by the burned and wilted conditions of the Turk’s Cap leaves in the meadow. I was aware that the weather predictors on the television warned of this, but I was not sure it would happen in our meadow. Later in the day, as I worked among the cut, trash trees in the southeast meadow, I noticed the Turk’s Cap plants growing there were not damaged. They are of the same elevation and both meadows border on flowing water. The temperatures should have been similar, but they were not. So, the cold was isolated in the wider, more open valley and the plants in the narrower valley were protected. A book on the weather might suggest this phenomenon, but the variation between our meadows would not have been addressed. I saw it and learned.

The freedom to walk down the hill and see what it there; the ability to notice and evaluate what I see; the ability to learn new things; without these my life would be empty. While this question may be asked to find what physical objects I would object most to losing, those physical things are replaceable. To learn is to be alive and as long as I am alive, I want to continue to learn.