There's just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.
And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.
No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon.
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.
It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basket maker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.
(Otherwise New & Selected Poems © Graywolf Press, 1997.)
Anyhow, it got me thinking.
We were talking on the phone to three different people yesterday - my mother, rdeck's sister, and the widow of a good friend of ours who is trying to cope with the first anniversary of her husband's death. And it's like this. In the first of those phone calls, I heard this quiet contentment that Mom was talking to me, that she had brough a bunch of pretty plants to pop into my planters (to replace the ones that the demented squirrel had dug out, if you must know), that she had made me a cake, that she had seen the proofs sitting on my coffee table and could talk to me about the new book. In the second call, I bubbled and burbled over the things that are going on in my life right now, and although I was talking to someone who has no fannish connections or inclinations and who doesn't get half the things I tell her she did manage to get one thing out of what I was saying. "You're enjoying your life," she said, "I can tell." And in the third phone call, I could hear that deep hurt that's only barely healed over, a memory of happiness, a determnination to catch the elusive beast by the tail again, to have something resembling it sleeping at one's feet, a tiny kitten instead of a lion if necessary, but there - because it's so essential to our existence.
I know people who simply don't know how to be happy. I think of that as a curse.
Miss Snark says, "I hope you know what makes you happy". As far as that question is concerned, my answer is yes.
I am happy because I am loved, have always been loved, and therefore know how to love. I am happy because I know that there are people out there for whom a world with me in it is a better place than one without me. And I am happy because I know the same thing about other people.
I am happy because I have seen the world, and understand many things about it. I am happy because I have been privileged to travel, to be a part of other people's visions and cultures, to comprehend what makes people move and change. I am happy because I have seen beatuy, and I know it is transcendent.
I am happy because I dreamed a dream, and life has magnanimously allowed me to have it come true - I have had this love affair with words for as long as I can remember, and the fact that they and I are symbiotically connnnected, that I sit down in front of a blank page or a computer monitor and the words come crowding up to say hallo, that I have nearly a dozen book titles on my shelf which bear my name on it, that I am living as A Writer and that this has been blessed by the Gods and the Muses and watched over by my Guardian Angels - that makes me happy. It makes me grateful, too, because I know how much this part of my happiness depends on what opinions other people form of that joy I take in words and in what they do.
I am happy because I have a home that I love, a home which has always been a sanctuary to me.
I am happy because I have a garden I am so damn proud of, I have critters like deer and squirrels (however demented they be) and raccoons and a baker's dozen of bird species crowding my back yard, and I can even turn a blind eye if they occasionally eat my lilacs or my linden tree. I am happy because I am a part of this web of life, that I can watch the creatures out there in their own existences and share the richness of their presence in my world.
There are times I get despondent, insecure, sad, occasionally overwhelmed by thigns that pile up, scared, cynical, or impatient. Let none of those things detract from the one great truth of my life: I am happy.
This is a good place, the place I am in.
The best thing I can wish for anyone reading this is that you too will find a place where you just know you belong.