There were plenty of reasons not to feel cheerful, ranging from my own health problems to problems of the world that I can’t fix. But as I sat out in the garden with my morning coffee, watching the first rays of sun hit the fall colors, I could only feel deep, deep gratitude.
A merle cluck-clucked his way through the hawthorn tree, searching for berries. A shy, little wren hipped out of the shelter of the bushes to sit on the edge of a flowerpot. When my delighted gaze became a bit too much, she flitted back. A huge flock of bright white gulls flew up from the newly harvested potato field, wheeled around, and lit on the brown earth again.
I reflected on how much abundance there is in my life. So much to be grateful for!
I thought back on a recent conversation with a cherished friend. Exploring a period when we were both too caught up in our own projections to see what was happening to the other. It wasn’t an easy conversation but the fact that we were both able to see this and admit it to the other was such a source of joy!
And how I recently confessed a dream I have been holding on to, to my sons. Expecting indifference or worse, I was thrilled to find that they (and their spouses) were extremely enthusiastic. So we have a shared dream we can work on together. It warms me to think of it. And, here too, I have to admit that it was my own projection of their possible reactions that kept me from sharing it earlier.
Happiness is so very simple. The old adage of counting your blessings every night before going to sleep, actually works. Whenever you get caught up in your own narrative, your projections on others, your private tale of misery – take a moment to think about all the things that you can feel grateful for. Even the simple joy of the sunlight hitting a flower. Especially that simple joy!
Wendell Berry has summed this up beautifully in his very moving poem, The Peace of Wild Things:
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.