This time of year all I can think about is being outdoors. Between my own obsession and my recent reading, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about dogged pursuits.

Mine is the garden. But it is curious to me how people choose the lists they wish to check off or accomplishments they wish to pursue in life. I’m not talking about goals at work or academic degrees or such. I’m talking about the often innocuous passions that people pursue in their off hours when they could otherwise be socializing with friends, drinking beer, watching television, napping or reading a book.

I recently read the story of a fellow, one of a dedicated set of birders, who is intent on seeing every species of the 10,000 or so birds on the planet. I now am reading a book by a woman who set out to cook ALL OF THE RECIPES in the original Julie Childs cookbook. The $64 Tomato is the story of a guy who becomes OBSESSED with his garden and spends extraordinary amounts of money and hard work at the effort. Harry tells me about pilots who keep elaborate lists of all the airplanes that they fly. Some railroad fans (also derided as by U.S. rail workers as “foamers”—because they supposedly foam at the mouth—or, crudely, FRN for “f*%*^& rail nuts”) keep elaborate records of all the railroad equipment they can spot.

Some obsessions are completely unique to individuals, particularly collections, I think. Like the guy who collects airline airsickness bags. I used to go to a mechanic who had collected for years those two-quart 7-11 Big Gulp cups, stacking them inside of each other and lining the wall of his garage. Weird.

I am not a talented social talker at events such as cocktail parties and such. But a while back, I learned a few little tricks to deal with my discomfort. The one question that always produces the most surprising responses is, “I’ve been talking to people lately about what they collect. It seems that almost everyone collects—or wants to collect—something. Are you a collector of anything?”

In addition to the usual collections (stamps, coins, etc.) I have met people who collect buttons, 1950s nostalgia, beer cans, antique cars, orchids, paperweights, postcards. Amazing. And the interesting thing is that otherwise morose conversationalists actually LIGHT UP when you ask this question. People are passionate about the oddest things! Their dogged pursuits!

Perhaps these listers, collectors and hobbyists of all types don’t choose the pursuits so much as the pursuits catch them. What is it about a person who feels the compulsion to doggedly pursue an accomplishment that has value other than having done it?

I suspect that a subset of these folks is suffering from a socially acceptable outlet for an obsession compulsive disorder. Not all of us, of course. I think others were inspired by some event that created an epiphany that they seek to recreate. I have my own inspirations that I’ll share at some point when I can gather my wits about me enough to write coherently.

But for now, just be assured that I’m pursuing my own dogged pursuits.

This Memorial Day weekend was a big gardening weekend. I was lucky enough to have my 16-year-old play yard boy and accompany me to the local garden center where we left with THREE BIG CARTS of loot in addition to all the mulch they had to load in the stockyard. Then Harry (husband) took pity on me that afternoon and offered to help move plants from their nursery pots into the ground.

Happy day!

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