Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Happiness Book

We remark on how green everything is. 

We say this every year at this time. It's an annual comment. 

The comment, like the look of the lawns, is as fresh to us as if green was never seen before.

Our grass is May green and green is the color of hope. Green may also be a description for happiness. Anything can be, I'm learning from my new book.

The new book is 14,000 things to be happy about. At a library book sale in Florida the book fell into my hands.

The author is Barbara Ann Kipfer. She's a favorite of mine going back to 8,789 Words of Wisdom. I like the way she gets her hands around life. 

Her particular brilliance is the ability to break down life into interesting and manageable size. She has the knack for organizing life into helpful units. Her little books cover instructions, possibilities and happiness. 

Her lists teem with the energy of the unstoppable creative one. She lays out her offerings for us to take in, take from and add to. It's a nifty thing she does.

At the library I thumbed through the book making up my mind that there was room to pack it along home. It struck me as a fun read as the pages were flipped quickly. 

My payment went into the slot and the book got tucked in as you make extra stuff somehow fit within your luggage. It makes a good souvenir was my thought as it was slipped in between some folded lightweight tops.

Books like this don't require starting at the beginning. Jump in, explore. I did go first to the author's preface which I'm glad I did.

Kipfer describes me when she says she began as a sixth grader with a spiral notebook recording things that made her happy. 

The same pleasure in putting ideas to paper was in me. I picked up happy times and ordinary moments and set them down in letters. It was happiness to write to people. It was my way of hugging life to me.

Some days I remember the book. It's by my reading chair as an intent to keep it in mind.

The bookmark tells me where I left off. It may be quite awhile before I think of the book again. There's no hurry with it.

Perhaps one of my 14,000 things to be happy about is the gift for savoring. I take easily to spinning out, and not finishing too soon, the restful minutes.

Kipfer says that the book, published in 1990, represents twenty years of recording the little things that have made her happy. 

This is some of the charm for me. Her list covers the years that have been my years. It recalls events, trends, TV shows, even people that defined our era as young and maturing women. From all of this our generation was choosing our happiness route, each one of us.

It pleases me when she and I concur on happiness. Apparently we mutually feast on vivid images. Write down my happiness definers and they match hers on page 110 - "flamingo coral, sunny red, sunflower pink, pink orchid colors."  

With her I'm made happy by sun-touched shoulders, a tiny plant in a little clay pot and wandering the fairgrounds (page105).

"Scanning a star-filled sky on a still winter night" (page 69) would figure on my list too. Then there's breakfast "with fresh-baked breads, granola, eggs, juices, steaming coffee and tea" (page 92). 

Indeed, happiness is food and food is in happiness. Food easily could make the first thousand listings if we go down that particular happiness path.

Some of Kipfer's happiness items leave me puzzled or in disagreement. "That wouldn't make me happy," I muse. "How did that get on the list?" I stumble on another. It causes me to think about happiness all over again.

This is possibly the point of a happiness list. Compose your own or study another's,  it's pretty much one and the same. 

You see yourself more clearly as you record happiness items (or read somebody else's). You grow as you examine each happiness in light of its effect on you (or the other). 

A better personal understanding is achieved. The breadth of happiness, taken from all perspectives, can blow you over.

"Last  Train to Clarksville" by the Monkees (page 81) was never a favorite song. The Monkees weren't my kind of group. They and their music were left alone.

Still, it's good action now to revisit "Last Train to Clarksville." It's an invitation into Kipfer's happiness which I don't wish to decline. In the long run, when we "get" another's happiness, we change ourselves.

I don't need to judge the song or the group from youthful experience but rather view it as from hers. Another's happiness - this I've learned for sure - can become yours as you let yourself wear it.

My happiness list (if started) would by now be very long. Experiences of happiness are everywhere for us to name and see. Just look around. Just feel. Just be.

Here are a couple for starters. 1) Lilacs in the house corner looking so pretty and smelling so good. Evenings in late spring the fragrance of lilacs comes in and is pure pleasure to inhale.

2) Memorial Day - official start to summer. Move this one up where it belongs. Without question it's my Happiness #1.

Happy Summer!

Ro Giencke - May 23, 2012

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