Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

I always peek into baby buggies when I walk home, because I love to look at the little children who are lying asleep with upstretched hands on a ruffled pillowcase. I also like to look at people who in one way or another give expression to their feelings. I like to look at mothers caressing their children, and I willingly go a little out of my way in order to follow a young couple who are walking hand in hand and are openly in love. It gives me a wistful feeling of happiness and an indefinable hope for the future.

—  Tove Ditlevsen, Youth: The Copenhagen Trilogy (FSG Originals, January 26, 2021)


Highly Recommended. And the trilogy has been recommended as a Best Book of the Year in 2021.

Lightly Child, Lightly.

Soft the dove-hued shadows mingle,
Color fades, sound droops to sleep.
Life and motion melt to darkness
Swaying murmurs far and deep.
But the night moth’s languid flitting
Stirs the air invisibly:
Oh, the hour of wordless longing;
I in all, and all in me.

Twilight—tranquil, brooding twilight,
Course through me, serene and smooth;
Quiet, languid, fragrant twilight,
Flood all depths, all sorrows soothe,
Every sense in dark and cooling
Self-forgetfulness immerse,—
Grant that I may taste extinction
In the dreaming universe.

Fyodor Tyutchev, from Twilight; (Translated by Avrahm Yarmolinsky). Written in 1835.

Notes:

  • Photo: DK @ Twilight. 5:45 am, September 12, 2021. 67° F. Cove Island Park, Stamford, CT. (Yes, this shot is the dawn side of Twilight, not in alignment with this beautiful poem)
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Lightly Child, Lightly.

And maybe that’s better. It makes me feel that rather than worrying and theorising about the state of the world, which helps no one, I should put my energy into living and being happy. When I try to picture for myself what a happy life might look like, the picture hasn’t changed very much since I was a child—a house with flowers and trees around it, and a river nearby, and a room full of books, and someone there to love me, that’s all. Just to make a home there… Never to move, never to board a plane again, just to live quietly and then be buried in the earth. What else is life for?

Sally Rooney, Beautiful World, Where Are You: A Novel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, September 7, 2021)


Notes:

More. More Birds.

In our pursuit of that elusive thing called happiness, scientists can offer few findings. One is that, contrary to popular belief, money can actually buy happiness. Another, more recent, is that so can birds… “According to our findings, the happiest Europeans are those who can experience numerous different bird species in their daily life, or who live in near-natural surroundings that are home to many species.” The social isolation necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic has pushed many people to escape into the outdoors and reconnect with nature. Research suggests that spending more time in nature and with animals can help people relax and even lessen physical and mental stress.  And the more birds, the better, according to the study, which analyzed data from the “2012 European quality of Life Survey” on life satisfaction in more than 26,000 adults from 26 European countries. A 10 percent increase in the number of bird species in peoples’ surroundings increased their life satisfaction as much as an extra 10 percent in the bank, the study found.

— Anagha Srikanth, from “New study finds birds give people as much happiness as money” (thehill.com, March 24, 2021)


Photo: DK @ Daybreak, 6:49 am. March 21, 2021, Norwalk, CT

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

When stumped by a life choice, choose “enlargement” over happiness. I’m indebted to the Jungian therapist James Hollis for the insight that major personal decisions should be made not by asking, “Will this make me happy?”, but “Will this choice enlarge me or diminish me?”

Oliver BurkemanOliver Burkeman’s last column: the eight secrets to a (fairly) fulfilled life (The Guardian, Sept 4, 2020)


Notes:

‘Feel’ This

sleep

(He) said that happiness is what happens when you go to bed on the hottest night of the summer, a night so hot you can’t even wear a tee-shirt and you sleep on top of the sheets instead of under them, although try to sleep is probably more accurate. And then at some point late, late, late at night, say just a bit before dawn, the heat finally breaks and the night turns into cool and when you briefly wake up, you notice that you’re almost chilly, and in your groggy, half-consciousness, you reach over and pull the sheet around you and just that flimsy sheet makes it warm enough and you drift back off into a deep sleep. And it’s that reaching, that gesture, that reflex we have to pull what’s warm – whether it’s something or someone – toward us, that feeling we get when we do that, that feeling of being sad in the world and ready for sleep, that’s happiness.

Paul Schmidtberger, Design Flaws of the Human Condition


Notes: Quote: from liquidlightandrunningtrees via Last Tambourine. Photo: forward to forget

Saturday Morning

One’s very own room, ventilated to please one’s self, furnished just as one wishes, with one’s pet belongings arranged to suit one’s own tastes; an entire bed in which one may pitch and toss, stretch and yawn, without the consciousness that another would-be sleeper is being annoyed – all of these are aids to happiness.

Virginia Terhune Van de Water, “From Kitchen to Garret,” (Published in 1910)


Notes: Quote via Schonwieder. Photo via Sabon Home

That’s happiness.

“How can you be happy now?” the book seems to ask, and it has a point. The catastrophe of climate neglect, the toxic politics, the tangible sense of so many things worsening in your own lifetime, along with a sense of your obscure or outright complicity, all combined to make the idea of any possible happiness seem at best childish, at worse willfully blind…

When I came to write the new novel, I remembered a moment from our early days in Clare. We had left commuter Monday-to-Friday lives in New York to come to a rural farming community, seeking a simpler life that was truer to our natures, not yet knowing what exactly that was…

One of those first welcomers was Michael Dooley, a silver-haired farmer, turf cutter, man of the land of the old kind, who into his 80s, pedaled his big bicycle into the village.

Because Michael seemed to be working on the land all day every day, into the fall of darkness and beyond, and never complained, I once asked him if he ever took a holiday.

“A holiday?” He looked at me like the innocent I was.

“I mean, what do you do to be happy?”

The question was a novelty to him and he considered it from all sides before answering.

“When I want a holiday,” he said at last, “I go over the road as far as the meadow. I go in there, take off my jacket, and lay down on it. I watch the world turning for a bit, with me still in it.”

He smiled then, and held me in his blue Atlantic eyes, full of the ordinary wisdom of a well-lived life, a wisdom that saw the many failings of the world but our still breathing and dreaming in it, and with a conclusive nod that defeated all arguments said, “That’s happiness.”

~ Niall Williams, from “Is Anyone Happy Anymore? We’ve lost our ability to take comfort in small things.” Mr. Williams is the author, most recently, of the novel “This Is Happiness.” (The New York Times, Dec 21, 2019)


Notes:

Antonio Banderas: Proust Questionnaire

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  • What is your idea of perfect happiness? The very short instant right after accomplishing something very challenging.
  • What is your greatest fear? The death of my loved ones.
  • What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? My pathological incapacity to say no.
  • What is the trait you most deplore in others? I don’t like fake people, impostors.
  • What do you dislike most about your appearance? I would like to be four inches taller. (He’s 5′ 9″)
  • What is your current state of mind? Excited and calm even if it is a contradiction.
  • If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? The age. I would like to be 30 years old now.
  • If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be? I wouldn’t change my family for anything in the world.
  • What do you consider your greatest achievement? I survived Hollywood.
  • If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be? A mountain.
  • If you could choose what to come back as, what would it be? The ocean.
  • What is your most marked characteristic? People always say my eyes.
  • What is the quality you most like in a man? Integrity.
  • What is the quality you most like in a woman? Compassion.
  • What do you most value in your friends? Loyalty.

~ Antonio Banderas, excerpts from “Antonio Banderas Answers the Proust Questionnaire” Vanity Fair, December 12, 2019


Photo: Actor Antonio Banderas attends the “The Skin I Live In” premiere at the Palais des Festivals during the 64th Cannes Film Festival on May 19, 2011 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)

Lightly Child, Lightly.

You thought the happiness
would appear simply, without effort
or any kind of work,

like a bird call
or a pathside flower
or a school of silvery fish

– Margaret Atwood, from “Your Children Cut Their Hands…” in “The Door


Notes:

  • Poem: via Adrasteiax; Photo: Noell Oszvald with The illumination (via see more)
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

 

Saturday Morning

At night, crickets sawed outside the windows of my childhood bedroom, and I read sixteen years of old journals, turning their pages into the early morning hours, as if I did not know what would happen next. There I was, same as ever, a linked paper chain of self-replication, continuously through time, the very same shorthand for a simple, happy life: muffin tins, cross-country skis, a desk by an open window. When had I made everything so complicated?

~ Sarah McColl, “Joy Enough: A Memoir.” (January, 2019)


Photo: Dan Smith

we can smell wood smoke in the air and taste snowflakes on our tongues

We’ve had decades to develop resilience. Many of us have learned that happiness is a skill and a choice. We don’t need to look at our horoscopes to know how our day will go. We know how to create a good day.

We have learned to look every day for humor, love and beauty. We’ve acquired an aptitude for appreciating life. Gratitude is not a virtue but a survival skill, and our capacity for it grows with our suffering. That is why it is the least privileged, not the most, who excel in appreciating the smallest of offerings.

Many women flourish as we learn how to make everything workable. Yes, everything. As we walk out of a friend’s funeral, we can smell wood smoke in the air and taste snowflakes on our tongues.

Our happiness is built by attitude and intention. Attitude is not everything, but it’s almost everything. I visited the jazz great Jane Jarvis when she was old, crippled and living in a tiny apartment with a window facing a brick wall. I asked if she was happy and she replied, “I have everything I need to be happy right between my ears.”…

There is an amazing calculus in old age. As much is taken away, we find more to love and appreciate. We experience bliss on a regular basis. As one friend said: “When I was young I needed sexual ecstasy or a hike to the top of a mountain to experience bliss. Now I can feel it when I look at a caterpillar on my garden path.”

Older women have learned the importance of reasonable expectations. We know that all our desires will not be fulfilled, that the world isn’t organized around pleasing us and that others, especially our children, are not waiting for our opinions and judgments. We know that the joys and sorrows of life are as mixed together as salt and water in the sea. We don’t expect perfection or even relief from suffering. A good book, a piece of homemade pie or a call from a friend can make us happy. As my aunt Grace, who lived in the Ozarks, put it, “I get what I want, but I know what to want.”

We can be kinder to ourselves as well as more honest and authentic. Our people-pleasing selves soften their voices and our true selves speak more loudly and more often. We don’t need to pretend to ourselves and others that we don’t have needs. We can say no to anything we don’t want to do. We can listen to our hearts and act in our own best interest. We are less angst-filled and more content, less driven and more able to live in the moment with all its lovely possibilities…

By the time we are 70, we have all had more tragedy and more bliss in our lives than we could have foreseen. If we are wise, we realize that we are but one drop in the great river we call life and that it has been a miracle and a privilege to be alive.

~ Mary Pipher, excerpts from The Joy of Being a Woman in Her 70s (The New York Times · January 12, 2019). Mary Pipher is a clinical psychologist in Lincoln, Neb., and the author of the forthcoming “Women Rowing North: Navigating Life’s Currents and Flourishing as We Age.”


Photo Credit

Lightly Child, Lightly

Am I the sun inside me?

~ Kazim Ali, from “Dear Rumi,” The Far Mosque


Notes:

  • Photo: Kalie Garrett @ Design Cove (via see more). Poem: Chateau of my Heart
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Wisdom

I was racing back home from the computer store, busily doing my errands, trying to get things done. I noticed a restaurant and shopping center to my right, on the freeway. I’d been curious about this place for almost a year. Today, instead of driving by, I turned off the highway and pulled into the parking lot. I spent the next three hours browsing through the stores filled with antiques, trinkets, and gourmet foods. Then I enjoyed a leisurely dinner—a juicy hamburger and a chocolate malt—at the restaurant before returning home. The stores had always been there; I’d always driven past. Today I stopped, satisfied my curiosity, and enjoyed myself.

It’s easy to spend our lives working toward a goal, convinced that if we could only get there, we’d be truly happy then. Today is the only moment we have. If we wait until tomorrow to be happy, we’ll miss out on the beauty of today.

Have your plans. Set goals.

Let yourself be happy now.

~ Melody Beattie, from “Be Happy Now” & More Language of Letting Go


Photo Credit

Walking Cross Town. With Woo Woo.

It’s a blank screen.

At the bottom of the iPhone, there’s a Start arrow symbol: >

Below the arrow, is a timer.

09:00.

My finger hovers over the arrow. Oh, for God sakes DK, it’s only 9 minutes. How difficult can this be?

P: “As we get started, settle yourself in a comfortable position.”  Her voice is soothing. Or seductive? Jesus, DK, focus.

The Pacifica app’s headline: “Reduce Stress. Feel Happier.” “Apple’s Best of 2017…psychologist designed tools for mindfulness meditation, relaxation, and mood/health tracking.” Only you DK, only You, can get anxious in front of a Meditation exercise designed to reduce the same. 

P: “Sit on a chair or a cushion on the floor…If you feel comfortable doing so, close your eyes…” (Long Silence)

This pilgrimage isn’t to Mecca, not to the Wall in Jerusalem, and not with Him upstairs. But a prayer to the new God. My palms cradle my Smartphone, and the glowing screen feeds me.  I was off on the last leg of David Rome‘s journey: As we grow from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, eventually our most fundamental relationship becomes the inner relationship with ourselves. [Read more…]

Lightly Child, Lightly

The god of dirt
came up to me many times and said
so many wise and delectable things, I lay
on the grass listening
to his dog voice,
crow voice,
frog voice; now,
he said, and now,

and never once mentioned forever

~ Mary Oliver, from “One or Two Things” in New and Selected Poems:  Volume One


Notes:

  • Photo:  Teresa Meyers (via MennyFox55). Poem: Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Lightly Child, Lightly

I discovered that in the early part of the morning a mist hovered in the hollows of the estate and the grass was wet with dew. There was a smell in the air of bonfires, the land already preparing for autumn…The morning welcomed me and I felt lighter, more confident, walking with my head up, ready for anything.

– Claire Fuller, Bitter Orange (Tin House Books, October 9, 2018)


Notes:

  • Photo: Ed Stockard.
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Lightly Child, Lightly

Some moments become enchanting with the addition of words,

others are completely killed if you try to describe them.

It’s the difference between a tiny bird flittering above your open palm

and a closed fist crushing wings.

~ The Chesterfield


Notes:

  • Photo: Bill Leslie with Groovy Times. Quote via Your Eyes Blaze Out. Photo_wanderlog_Yllas via Your Eyes Blaze Out.
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Lightly Child, Lightly

I pause under that summer tree, the one that feels like a friend, as my dog wonders why we’ve stopped. She was trotting in such rhythm. But when this still, I wonder what part of me, way down, remains untouched by dream or memory? What drop of being remains out of reach of the opinions of others? When up close, each thing reveals its shimmer. And it’s the unexpected closeness that holds everything together. The light spreads across my dog’s face, her eyes so devoted to wherever I want to go.

Can I be this devoted to the pull of life?  

Mark Nepo, from “Speechless” in Things That Join the Sea and the Sky: Field Notes on Living


Notes:

  • Photo: Bill Leslie with Groovy Times
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Lightly Child, Lightly

I remember how [the sparrow] felt
When I got my hand, and how it burst
that hand open
when I took it outside, a strength

that must have come out of hopelessness
and the sudden light
and the trees…

Stephen Dunn, from “The Sudden Light and the Trees,” in Landscape at the End of the Century


Notes:

  • Photo: Sparrow by © sergey_polyushko
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”
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