5 Gift Ideas to Get You Inspired for Giving


By Radha Marcum, Senior Editor

I have been told that I am exceptionally good at choosing gifts for those I love. I delight in the just-right present that holds pleasure and meaning for the recipient. So when Anna Soref, Calmful Living Editor in Chief, suggested I write about my holiday wish list this year, I thought: “Sure, that’s easy!”

In fact, it was anything but easy. I am simply not as good at knowing what I want. After all, like many of you, what I really want is less stuff, more spaciousness and time. And did I mention world peace? With my life and resources focused on raising two kids—securing their health and happiness and (we hope) their future health and happiness—my needs tend toward intangibles (sleep, relaxation, inspiration, and time to reflect).

So, here are five ways that translate intangible wishes into nearly, if not actually, wrappable gifts that I would love to receive as much as I’d love to give.

  1. Healing waters. Actually, I’m giving myself and my husband this gift pre-December this year. We’ll be in Santa Fe visiting family for Thanksgiving, so I booked us a half-day at Ten Thousand Waves Spa. Tucked in the foothills of the Santa Fe National Forest, the spa is modeled after a traditional Japanese bathhouse—beautiful grounds, elegant buildings, and healing water. Icing on the cake? A massage.
  2. Blissful smells. My nose may not be as nuanced as my pup’s, but I’ve noticed my mood is profoundly affected by scents. For that reason alone, I could never live in New York. Instant perk-up? New York–based Lurk essential oil perfumes (particularly the jasmine-citrus PRJV1 and the woodsy-rose RW005) that I reviewed here earlier this year.
  3. Melody. While driving the other day, I suddenly heard a less-played movement from a Beethoven symphony through the static. I was instantly transported to public gardens in Vienna where I played this piece with a youth orchestra many, many years ago. It may be harder to wrap it in the digital paradigm, but albums, concert tickets, or artfully arranged playlists (remember mixed tapes?) are still a favorite gift. As the late neuroscientist Oliver Sacks once said, “Music can pierce the heart directly; it needs no mediation.”
  4. Memories on the wall. As you may know from reading pieces like this, my family and I love to explore together. We take thousands of pictures every year; some end up in a family calendar, and some end up as my desktop background. Right now, I can see the edges of a green, sunlit pool we found along the Rio Grande in June. Perhaps these digital spaces are enough to stoke that memory, but I don’t want to look at my digital spaces anymore. Some photographs are worth printing and framing! I’m inspired by the photographers, like Greg Davis.
  5. Real text. I’m a purist—I love to touch and smell the pages of printed books. I knew that my husband and I were destined for each other when I observed how he surrounded himself (literally) with books. We live in piles of novels, essay collections, cookbooks, poetry, how-to tomes, and heady nonfiction reads. Luckily, our neighborhood is full of Little Libraries. (If I lived in Oakland, you’d find me here.) Yesterday I finished one of my favorites of the year, a series of self-deprecating, beautifully rendered essays on mid-life, The Folded Clock by Heidi Julavits (Doubleday, 2015). So who needs another book? I do.


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