The rescue of the Chilean miners makes me happy. I’m sitting here in front of the television, watching, hardly able to look away. Most of the time I don’t watch the news, because it is so sad, or because I don’t care about celebrity gossip. I read it online instead, where I can filter out the chaff. But this story is one I want to see, one that is inspiring, a glad, glad moment that really sends light out into the world. I don’t have many words to express my happiness; somehow the tears in my eyes and the warmth in my heart speak more than anything I could ever write. I will light a candle to burn brightly in the dark. Happy day. Hope.
Giant wasps make me happy. I mean, as long as they’re fictional giant wasps and not real ones. And this one, the wasp was a vicar. He wasn’t a wasp in vicar clothes; he looked like a normal vicar, but he was really half-human, half-wasp, an alien wasp, and he could turn into a wasp form. And it was on Doctor Who, but not the old show, where you’d expect such a thing. No, it was the new show, and there was a giant wasp attacking Agatha Christie. Hat’s off to the BBC for making my dreams look normal.
Velociraptors make me happy because the word is fun to say, and because they aren’t waiting outside of my house. Do you know where they are?
Making jelly makes me happy. I did that yesterday. I haven’t done that in years, decades. But there I was with friends, squashing strawberries with a potato-masher, and then taking turns stirring the berries over the stove and trying to keep them from spattering all over my clothes or my skin. Oh, the smell of cooking berries was so wonderful, filling the kitchen. And the rolling of the boiling liquid was almost like a dance, the bubbles turning over and over, the liquid almost like a never-ending wave. And after we added the sugar, the liquid got satin-glossy. And then we were spooning them into jars, laughing as we lifted the jars from their water-bath, laughing as we tried not to over-fill the jars, or drop the funnel somewhere we didn’t want it. And then there was the taste-testing, and the extra taste-testing, just in case the flavor changed while it cooled. The anticipation as we waited for the jelly to cool and set. And now I have a lovely jar of jelly in the refrigerator, and some lovely bagels to try it on. Yay.
Walking in the woods makes me happy. I love going in on a trail, hearing the “outside” fade away into silence, and then having the silence fall away into something else, not silence but a quiet filled with sounds, where you can really listen instead of just hearing. The leaves rustle, whisper, and the wind sings through them, flutters them, and branches creak and squeak and pop. If it is windy there is a low thrumming and a high sweeping sound as the trees sway, the leaves dance. Crickets chirp and birds sing, from the stream frogs can be heard. A squirrel chatters overhead, scolds, then jumps to another tree. Something unseen crackles off in the undergrowth to the left, the right, never seen. I love the cool dappled light, with maybe a pool of bright sunshine here and there. And in the sun, a garter snake lies stretched and basking on a bit of fallen branch. flowers peep from dead leaves, green leaves, catching the light and shining like little stars. And then there’s the smell of the woods, smell of things springing from the earth and things returning to the earth. The new smell of spring, the warm green smell of summer, the smell of autumn leaves, the crisp scent of winter snow. I love walking through this, a visitor, but growing closer, more one with the woods as I move along. I step over a shimmering streamlet, stoop to examine a deer-print on the other side. Finally my steps lead me out of the woods, but part of me stays behind, fawn-frolicking, until the rest of me can come again.
Zip codes make me happy because, seriously, why are they called zip codes? I mean, does your mail zip around really fast? Mine doesn’t? Maybe it makes a zipping sound when going into a mailbox or mail slot or something. Mailboxes kind of look like “Star Wars” droids, especially one by Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry that’s actually painted like R2-D2, but really, droids don’t do much zipping either. Mail doesn’t have zippers, and zippers don’t look like mail. Why not a sensible name like “postal codes”? I mean, I don’t mind “zip” codes, I really don’t. I’m just trying to understand it. And that’s why zip codes make me happy. They make no sense and it’s fun to say. Zippity zappity zoom.
Finding old, forgotten poems makes me happy. True, there are times that I wonder, “What was I thinking, but other times I re-read them and wonder why I lost them, where they’ve been all this time, and why they didn’t send me a postcard. This poem is one of those. It’s a sea-poem, and it makes me strangely happy when I read it, though I don’t know why. I don’t have a title for it. I’m just not good at titles.
In that direction lies the sea.
Its darkling fathoms call to me.
It bids me board a ship and roam
Where land is lost to wave and foam.
It bids me travel to the deep
Where dolphins frolic, where whales sleep,
Where wave and water touch the sky
And gulls and gannets dare to fly.
A soft farewell to home and land,
To green-clad meadow, beach and sand,
Farewell to kinsmen young and old,
For no one knows what fate will hold.
Then eager, board my ring-necked boat,
I raise the sail, set her afloat.
With aid from wind and aid from oar,
On paths that many took before.
I cannot say what lies ahead,
Or where at last I’ll lay my head,
Or if my time be short or long.
Remember me in deed and song.
September makes me happy. There’s just something about it, the turn of summer into autumn, the crispness that returns to the air, even just the evening air, that makes me happy. I love the bounty of the earth, the harvest, grains and corn and wonderful fruits and vegetables. It’s time for the last of the berries, for plums, and starting time for apples. Oh, I love apples. Still time for watermelons, but almost time for pumpkins. I look forward to misty gold mornings, to the drone of the cicadas to give way to crickets, and then to the wind and the rustling of the leaves. The changing of the seasons always makes me feel so alive, so connected to the natural world.
Rainy mornings make me happy because they feel so sleepy and lazy and because it means I don’t have to go out and water the tomatoes and the marigolds and the petunias or impatiens or whatever those flowers are planted around the trees in the front of the house.
Cups of tea make me happy, because there’s no hurrying them. You have to wait for them to brew, you have to wait for them to be cool enough to drink. It’s so nice holding a cup or mug in both hands, letting the heat slowly seep through, into, your skin, your fingers, your palms, your hands. Bend your face close to the rising steam and smell the wonderful aroma. Earthy black tea or garden-smell of green, the mild scent of white. The spice of herbs, rich chai, clove and orange, or the florals of jasmine, rose. Warm lemongrass, ginger, refreshing mint, or the soothing notes of chamomile. And then you sip it, hold it in your mouth a moment, savoring the flavor, the warmth, tasting the scents, then swallowing, feeling the warmth reach down, down. Having tea is holding a cup of meditation in your hands.
Sugar scrubs and salt scrubs make me happy. When my hands are dry and cracked, there’s nothing quite like a salt or sugar scrub to rub the dry skin away, leaving silky softness. It’s so nice when they’re infused with oils that just rub in, making your hands all nice and smooth. I love to be able to rub lotion in afterwards, feeling the indulgence of it.
Bonfires make me happy. I love sitting around a bonfire with friends, sharing a drink or two, singing, telling stories, maybe roasting hot dogs or marshmallows. I have one friend who put sparklers in her bonfire once. It was cool watching them sizzle and send their spurts of color into the orange-yellow of the bigger fire. (It wasn’t, maybe, the best or wisest of ideas, but it sure was neat.) I love listening to the crackling roaring of it, smelling the woodsmoke, the woodsmoke that can linger for days in your nose or hair or clothing, especially if you’re camping, and don’t get to wash as often. I love the waxing heat, the blazing heat, especially if it’s cold out. It’s like being caught between fire and ice, the freezing and the burning, and there’s just this little island ring between the blaze and the cold, a little oasis of comfort that’s filled with good company and good cheer. And hopefully not filled with June bugs or a surfeit of mosquitoes.
New shoes make me happy. I love putting them on my feet, feeling the strangeness, the newness. I love walking in them, getting the rhythm of how they move with my feet. I love to look down and see shoes different from shoes I’ve had on yesterday, the day before. I love wiggling my toes in them, exploring. I love the new shoe smell in them, without any sweaty-foot-stink. (And come on, there’s nothing quite like sweaty-foot-stink, but not in a good way, unless you’re a dog or a ferret and love to stick your nose in those things even after I’ve pushed them under beds or couches so I wouldn’t have to smell them, but hey, if it floats your doggy or ferrety boat, have at. Still, ew.) Now, I do have a confession to make. I’m a girl who owns exactly ten pairs of footwear. That includes one pair of slippers and one pair of winter boots. Somewhere I missed out on the “I need more shoes” gene. To me, ten pairs seems like an enormous luxury. I think of people who have no shoes or people who have just a pair and they have to wear them until they’re falling apart, and then I look at my little shoe-shelf and, wow, I have ten pairs! That’s great! So today I’m going to wear my new shoes. I’m going to explore the world in them.
Tall ships make me happy. I love the sails reaching to the sky, cloudy sails billowing and filling with the wind, with the breath of the world like they’re alive, and see the sun shining off of them like they’re snowy mountain-tops. I love to see them rising high, see the ropes pulled taut, straining, restraining. I love the rigging, the daring of it, the taunt of “I dare you to climb me” inherent in it. I love the creaking of wood, the mast, the very boards of the deck. I love the sound of water on the hull, the hollow boat-sound of it, a thing floating instead of sinking. There’s power in the wind and the water, of a vessel sailing on it, with no motors, no engines. No oars, really either, just the rudder to steer her by. I wish I could sail in one, just glided on the water by the wind, standing near the prow with the wind in my hair and the scent of water everywhere. Someday, someday.
Farmers’ markets make me happy. I love wandering through them, smelling the green things, looking at the vegetables and the fruit, the nuts and the honey. I love to find someone selling things to drink, and walking from booth to booth, sipping lemonade or raspberry spritz. I love weighing out lovely golden or new potatoes, hoisting ears of corn, tasting wonderful cheeses. It makes me happy to see swaths of flowers, to see crisp-crusted loaves of fresh bread, to wander about with a basket or a cloth bag on my arm, just deciding what to get. There’s a sense of connection between people, a sense of connection with the growing, with the seasons. I went to the farmers’ market yesterday. One of the farmers had a picture of his free-range laying chickens, big plump brown chickens, wandering in a flowered field, happily pecking up food. Their eggs are so pretty with brown, speckled shells. Happy chickens, happy eggs.
Celery makes me happy. I love that it crunches. I like to break it and get strands of celery curls. I like the smell of it, all wet and verdant and “celery-y”. It’s fun to eat, plain or with ranch dip or with peanut butter. It’s fun to say. Celery.
Friends make me happy. They make me happy for a bunch of reasons, but today they make me happy for making me laugh. Good friends have a wonderful way of taking something you said to them and making it incredibly funny. Side-achingly funny, sometimes. There’s nothing quite like laughing helplessly, unable to speak, maybe afraid to, not knowing what else your friend will make out of your words. There’s nothing quite like laughing together, and never being able to explain it to anyone else, because it’s just one of those things you and your friend share. It’s a moment built on weeks, months, years of other moments, impossible to describe, but summed up so well in a joyous peal of laughter. Even if it is laughter about crunchy frogs. Ribbit.
Wet grass makes me happy. I’m going to start out by saying that I’m not really a lawn person. I don’t like ground cover that has to be watered on a regular basis. I much prefer ivy or phlox or moss or ferns or violets or… (add plant here). But there’s something about a wet lawn that’s just so tempting. I love the dew-silvered grass in the mornings, maybe with a hint of fog clinging to it. I love to take off my shoes and wiggle my toes into the grass, especially when it’s hot out. I love to splish through the grass, leaving little tracks here and there. I love to watch the sun make glitter-diamonds against the green. I love flopping down in the grass and rolling in the dew, especially if it’s grass with clover in it, because then I’m all soggy and cool and clovery too.
Weird menu items and random text messages make me happy. They make me happy because there is no other way I would ever get a text message on my phone asking if I would ever eat duck testicles. Yes, duck testicles. I don’t even know what to say about it. I’m speechless. I’m also laughing pretty hard, which makes me happy. So… ah… quack…?
Cicadas make me happy. They sing from the trees, the trees lining the streets, the trees in the backyards, the trees in the parks, along the lakes, bordering meadows, in the woods. They sing summer, they sing heat, they sing the day and they sing the night. I love listening to them as I walk along, feeling the vibration of it, the rising and the falling. Though loud, there is something soothing about it, a lulling hum that speaks of lying in hammocks and swinging back and forth drinking lemonade after a long swim. I love cicadas.
Sunsets make me happy. I love the purple-pink-orange of the clouds, red-brushed, and the giant glowing orb of the sun sinking lower and lower, trees, buildings, everything on the horizon a gilt-edged silhouette, until the sun is swallowed by it, leaving the last light gleaming behind it in the sky. It is the warmth before the chill of night, the splash of fire on the mountains, molten rose on the water, or jewel-flame on snow. It is the day’s farewell, a gift to carry into the evening, a memory to dream when the stars are coming out to twinkle in the fading sky-glow.
The moon makes me happy. Tonight the moon was hiding behind a cloud, but when I went outside the light gleamed out at me, kitten-peeking from behind the fluff to see if it was safe to pounce on me. But I was watching, so the moon snuggled back behind the clouds again, peering through tiny crochet-holes here and there, watching and waiting. I’m inside now, but I’m sure the moon is still waiting, and maybe if I go out later the moon-kitten will leap out, and I’ll dance on a moonbeam. Or maybe I’ll be sleeping, and the moonlight will sneak inside, inch by inch, and sleep on a silvered pillow.
Insect repellent makes me happy. I’m not really fond of the chemical kind, but I love the all-natural stuff, sprays with citronella and cedar oil, and maybe marigold and lemongrass. I love the smell of it, uniquely summery, the light spritz of it on the skin. Best of all, I love that it keeps the mosquitoes away. It’s nice to be able to walk about in the dusk, in the cooling air, and not become a skeeter-feast that’ll be leaving me itching three days from now.
Tents make me happy. I like pup tents because they’re called pup tents and I always think they should have puppies in them, all rolling about and wagging and barking. I’m not sure why they’re called pup tents, except that maybe I look like one when I’m trying to put a pup tent up on my own and one of the poles snaps back and sends me rolling over like a puppy. I love the tents that are igloo-shaped, and I love ones that have compartments to them. It’s really cool having a fabric wall and fabric rooms and a fabric door. I love the big canvas scout camp tents I camped in as a kid, the ones set up on platforms that could fit four cots. The sides had ties so that you could roll them up and fasten them open when it was too hot. I loved lying in those tents with a bunch of other girl scouts telling ghost stories about the monsters or maniacs that had escaped from somewhere and were now lurking in the woods waiting to get one of us. I love medieval pavilions. I love to sleep in a tent during the rain, as long as the tent is set up so I won’t end up in five inches of water, and I love to fall asleep listening to the soft squirrel-pattering of rain on the canvas. Maybe best of all tents, though, were the blanket-tents I made as a kid: fortresses made with chairs and boxes and a picnic blanket, where I could whisk myself away from the city into any mysterious place that one could pitch a tent, and I’d stay there for long adventures, or at least until dinner.