The question was a simple one, but oh so difficult to answer.
“When are you your happiest?”
Having given happiness a lot of thought and always on a quest to find that sustainable joie de vivre, “I don’t know,” didn’t seem like the appropriate answer. So instead I stammered around until I finally had to admit, “I don’t know.”
“Then how do you know what the meaning of your life is? Find those moments you’re most at peace and bliss, then you’ll find your meaning.” Perhaps I shouldn’t have asked a Buddhist. I frowned. He laughed.
But hours later, I realized, I am most at peace and bliss outdoors. The moment—any moment—I step out of a building into fresh air, I feel instantly better about life. If the wind is blowing and the sun is shining, I feel downright joyful.
Each day since that conversation, I have noted and collected moments of peace and bliss as if they were seaglass on a beach, turning them over to marvel at their beauty before tucking them safely in my pocket to add to my treasure trove. There are probably 100 pieces of seaglass in there now. And probably a thousand rocks. And a few acorns too.
I’m completely happy when I’m collecting rocks, fossils, geodes, minerals, and seaglass. Of course, it helps that I’m outdoors.
I love sweeping my hundred-year-old hardwood floors. I don’t know exactly why, but I always end up humming and smiling without any effort while I move the horsehair bristles across the wood watching the dust and dirt and dog hair collect into a pile that is soon disposed of.
I love digging in the dirt, replanting plants too large for their pots or sowing seeds or trying to root pieces of my climbing rose that were snapped off carelessly while I tried to shape it.
I love walking my dogs by the river in my downtown while joggers, walkers, bicyclists and rollerbladers pass by. Whoever said Dayton is dead hasn’t been down on the river pathways. Not to mention the adventure of turtles, snakes and birds that make me “ooo” and “aahhh” while the dogs go bananas.
I love to travel. It might just be to a new park up the road with the dogs, or across the ocean to a place where I barely speak any of the language. Regardless, I feel more human somehow for being away from everything I know so well.
I love being in my home and in my city. Being where I know everything so well has it’s charms. Mainly that I know every nook and cranny as intimately as a lover. Every breath, every sneeze, every celebration, every sorrow is my own. I have shaped them both (home and hometown) as much as they have shaped me, and in that regards, we are soul-mates. I love that too.
I love looking at the moon and finding pictures in the stars. I know they already hold their own stories, but what about my stories. Are they up there too? Sometimes I think they are. The moon reminds me that time is passing, and what have I done with it? Often, I can only account for hours spent in front of an electrical device of some kind doing something mindless or dreaming of the food I’ll never cook, the yard I’ll never cultivate, the house I’ll never really want. Then I see the man condemned to carry his bundle of sticks for violating the day of rest. But sometimes, I can tell him of a duck and drake crossing the road and all the traffic coming to a complete standstill for more than five minutes to let them pass and the made up dialog my daughter and I imagined was going on with the plucky couple. Or a blue-grey heron poised on one foot atop a piece of driftwood floating down the river as if he were going down with the ship or urban surfing. Or picking up a handful of maple seeds from my deck and throwing them in the air solely to watch their firework helicopter action as they fell back to Earth. Then he seems pleased with me…and I with myself.
I love shooting archery. Quiet and still, more focused on my breathing than when I meditate and in more of a trance than when I pray. It’s just me, the arrow and the target in a game of tag. Only then do I still my mind and notice how brave and steady I might really be.
I love singing. More focused on my breathing than archery, I revel in the way my skin pimples as I hear the music swell and my eyes swell as I realize the depths of the meaning. People have loved this much, have been hurt this badly and still life goes one…beautifully, even.
I love cooking. It’s the ultimate magic, don’t you think? I mean, I’m not really a fan of spinach, but sautee it in some good extra virgin olive oil with black pepper and tossed in a couple eggs cracked open over a skillet with some butter and soon I have gold on my plate.
I love writing. There’s a story in everything, and everything holds a story. And while my mind is rarely clued in, my fingers and soul must be because they know how to make sense of and find beauty in…well, everything.
I love drinking. Hot tea, coffee, beer, wine, water. They all come with a story and their own purpose. Just like my collection of tea cups. You wouldn’t serve a weekday pot of Irish Breakfast in a dainty saucer-like china cup with Japanese rose blossoms on it any more than the Sunday morning lingering over a lavender green tea in a sturdy mug the size of a softball reading “Today, I’m the good witch.” Even so, I swear my statues of Buddha, the Virgin Mary, St. Anthony (patron saint of lost items…a therefore, an integral part of my family), and the chimney sweep nutcracker all seem smile brightly when I have a cup of any kind in my hands.
So what does that say about my meaning? Perhaps that I’m just a dreamer. I doubt I’m going to be able to provide for my daughters and dogs by being a dog walking rock collector, or a singing sweeper, or a traveling archer. Mostly what it tells me is that I don’t belong in a cube in an office of a corporation that makes things.
But then again, I knew that.
I wonder if that vineyard is still for sale…