one of the benefits of gardening is the time it gives you. time, as we are often reminded these days, is in short supply; daily we are bombarded with emails, IMs, tweets, tumblrs, Facebook, children, pets, family, work, mobile phones, landlines. talk to me, answer me, your response is requested/expected/demanded, pay attention, i am most important, no i am, please, don’t turn away, hello, are you there?, pick up the phone, why aren’t you answering my calls?
but gardening, if you let it, can take you away from all that. today i let that happen & it felt good. for the last several days i’ve been thinking about the nature of happiness; not always aware that that was the subject of my thoughts until this morning, when it suddenly dawned on me that the state of happiness was what all the mental machinations had been twirling around (dervishes possibly.)
of course, any time you start to delve into states of being, whether happiness, melancholy, or anger, you’re bound to raise more questions than answers. can we ever be truly happy? can that state of bliss last longer than a new york minute? what makes you happy?
happiness, i believe, is not unlike these mixed media collages by my friend judith bledsoe. it is made up of little pieces of afterthoughts, found objects, moments gathered in a box like souvenirs from the boardwalk (a little cheesy, smelling of salt water taffy, loaded with sunshine & smiles.)
you tear out a recipe you found in a magazine, thinking “i’ll make this,” & years later, digging through a drawer (the drawer that everyone has) you find it & think “i’ll make this,” & quietly stick it back in the drawer to be found years from now. or that photo that ‘x’ took of you that makes you look like alan ladd in “shane” (it could be true.) or even, that carnation from ‘y’s funeral that you put in the bottom of your jewelry box as a memento: all of these bring you little sparks of happiness, right? but do they sustain it?
aren’t our lives lived jumping from one toadstool of happiness to another? & that time between toadstools is the rest of your life (not happy, but not necessarily its opposite, sadness) but why do we strive so hard to be happy, when truly we live our lives just on this side of happiness? it’s close enough; you can reach out & touch it if you want (most of us, anyway) but it is hanging there behind a scrim, existing in its own time & on its own plane of being.
could you live happily ever after? is happiness the state of being that you want to live your entire life in? it seems to me that you would (or at least i think i would) find it interminably dull after a while. imagine that level of bliss minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year: i mean, my god, would it not be too, too much?
i realize it’s an entirely rhetorical question. have you ever met anyone who was always happy? even my grandmother patrick, who seemed to me to be the most optimistic, happy person, ever, had her ‘down’ time. she may’ve never shown it to the outside world, but i believe that at night, in the darkness of her bedroom, with the covers pulled up tight to her chin, that sadness, anger, melancholy leached into the very skein of her being (i know this because she told me so.)
so. happiness. it comes. it goes. my advice is to have it packed up in its own suitcase (something chic, mais oui) & ready to travel at a moment’s notice. you never know when you’ll be called on to drop everything & take a little trip (to happiness.)