Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Monday, October 15, 2007

Simple Happiness

Happiness, by Carl Sandburg

I asked the professors who teach the meaning of life to tell me what is happiness.
And I went to famous executives who boss the work of thousands of men.
They all shook their heads and gave me a smile as though I was trying to fool with them.
And then one Sunday afternoon I wandered out along the Desplaines river.
And I saw a crowd of Hungarians under the trees with their women and children and a keg of beer and an accordion.

How can we be happy without travelling far from home?

When my Spouse and I want a new book or film we go to the library and we get it for free. I also know that our local library holds a free cinema night once a month. Although we haven't lived here long enough to attend that yet, or a number of events the library offers, we surely could not complain about the facilities available.
When we are hungry we cook, most likely while listening to music in the kitchen, the windows thrown wide open to let in the breeze and connect us with the outside world for a while.
We have a large map on one wall of our apartment, yellow splashes denoting the places we have been to; we look fondly at it when we think about globetrotting and it reminds us of good times and treasured memories.
When I feel frustrated with the apartment and that I need to get out, I do a thorough clean and vacuum the floors; it makes the place feel like new and a whole lot bigger. I have a (three year old) pumpkin-scented candle that I light when all is clean and it gives our home a restored warmth.
I recently had a yearning for an ice pop. It seemed to come out of nowhere. I am wary of the validity of such thoughts, and as a result don't advocate cravings that urge me to buy something.
This desire struck me in the middle of the week; nowadays we do one grocery a week, on the weekend. If we run out of anything in between weekends due to lack of organisation or it just was not on our list to begin with, we generally teach ourselves a lesson by doing without it until the next trip. My Spouse says it builds character. I'm inclined, sporadically, to deem my character worthy of an intermission but the majority of the time I do see the necessity in foregoing an impulse.
As a result, we resolved the matter by making our own ice pops. We had an ice cube tray, and we poured lemonade into about six of the squares. A couple of hours later my character was indeed very happy to be crunching on very tasty and guilt-free ice cubes. Speaking with open vanity, I must add that they were far better than what I had been anticipating from a store.
A few years ago we inhabited a small town bursting at the seams with history and beauty. I happened, within two months of our moving there, to visit the local museum. It was the last day of my mother's trip to see me, and she and I both wanted to explore one last place.
My mother and I were the only visitors that day and we got a wonderful three hour tour from the guide in which we discovered everything there was to know about the place I would live in for three wonderful years.
I said bashfully to the tour guide, "I had no idea this place was here. I'm very embarrassed. I've lived here for two months and didn't even know this existed."
The tour guide looked at me for a moment and then said, "I've had people stop by that lived twenty five years in this town without visiting the museum. There's no need to feel bad."

One just never knows the treasure a small town can hold. The tour guide is now a very good friend to me, my mother and my Spouse. Had we not gone there that day to take a chance on what the town had to offer, we simply would never have known. It cost us absolutely nothing and I'm certain that most places have free activities of one kind or another. I cannot, however, promise that they will each come with a free surrogate grandmother but one can still explore the local area without accruing much expense.
People tend to look too far and too complex when trying to be happy. Most of my joy comes from being at home not because it costs us less, although that helps a good deal, but because it is without doubt more effective and memorable to make your own fun rather than buying into somebody else's idea of entertainment.

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