I have an affection for affection. I think of it as one of the most charmed of human sensibilities. It’s beyond mere interest yet short of love. It’s the soft, sweet, comforting middle ground where people and places and cherished things reside in a durable pocket of sentiment that comes upon us only after time and familiarity. It can sneak up on us.
I like to think about affection as a compass needle at this stage of life. When I feel the possibility of affection, I want to spend more time with the people and in the places that inspire that feeling.
People inspire our affections for reasons that are usually quite private, or at least personal. We see in those people qualities we admire. Sometimes, for me anyway, people who wouldn’t necessarily be full-time friends, inspire my affections because they are reliably well-meaning, self-effacing, good humored, warm, thoughtful and… you get the idea. Those qualities pull on the affections like sunlight on a bloom.
Places also win our affections, but with a different string of adjectives. Calming. Bucolic. Wondrous. Fascinating. Welcoming. Majestic. Homey. Unspoiled. Sometimes just comfortingly familiar. For me, all sorts of landscapes do it. Coastlines. Forests. Even golf courses. Perhaps even entire countries. Thailand and India come to mind (excluding the grittier parts, but even those are part of the picture) and I’m sure if I returned a couple of times to Namibia, my affections would grow by leaps and bounds.
I also like the idea that places we develop affection for over time are the places we are most likely to defend and protect. Hence, the argument against moving from city to city, a common modern practice. We care more based on affection and less in its absence.
Finally, things. They too can invoke affection. Houses. Cars. Long-owned treasures of sentimental value. Things with stories attached. Things especially well made or highly functional. Things that have served us loyally for years without complaint. Works of art. Finely made things that exemplify craft and care. Well-designed things that invite us to marvel at human ingenuity where it meets aesthetic flavoring. Things of beauty, both natural or human-created. And old things that have survived for generations and deserve affection for their antiquity.
(A couple of weeks ago, walking down a frozen street bundled against the cold, I saw my trusty red van named Weston parked at a distance at the side of the road up ahead under a street light. Perhaps ridiculously but genuinely nonetheless, I felt a small rush of affection. Admitting such a thing publicly could well be madness, yet Weston is not the first vehicle for which I’ve felt affection. Decades ago, when watching a beloved red 1962 Buick Skylark roll down the road hooked to the back of a tow truck destined for the scrap heap I shed a tear or two that caught me by surprise.)
Back to retirement. I want to fill my retired life foremost with those and that which I love, and next with those and that which have inspired my affections. Or might soon. They elevate our quality of life at a time when savoring is more possible because, hopefully, we have the time and space and calm and will.
Who and what in your world might be affection-worthy? Where is your compass needle pointing? And how can you make more time for those people and places and things? How can you grow affection?
A life rich in affection is a desirable aim.
That, and to be worthy of it ourselves.