February 7 2013
It’s a mischievous day. The mistral is here, lunging and pirouetting, then quivering en pointe before leaping here and there maddening the trees, and me; the mistral plays the chimney like a Peruvian flute sending a twirl of smoke toward the opening of the fireplace and then I’m up, en garde and parrying, pushing a log further back or more to one side in the hopes of getting the flames
to hungrily lick up the wayward smoke.
Joel is home after two days on the road, and in the air, to Barcelona and back where he was the keynote speaker at an HP conference. He left with a sore throat and returned with it, and a bad chest; mileage isn’t the only thing you get when you fly. So we sit now, by the fire, drinking hot chocolate and looking out to the valley all a-bluster below a pale blue sky with low-lying white clouds tumbling along the crest like almost-clean laundry, and we are happy; happy to be alive, and to be living in such peace and harmony both with each other and with this beautiful part of the world we’ve landed in.
Much like the mistral, the unpredictable, impulsive energy of which cleanses the air and revives the spirit, we, too, are experiencing the rewards of our recent emotional work. “Feeling our way around” suits us well, although I’m aware that it might make for a boring blog: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” as Tolstoy famously wrote in his opening line of Anna Karenina, and we all know how that turned out….
So, is happiness boring? It certainly isn’t boring me. Nor did it yesterday when, spending my second day alone and having just brought in a load of firewood, I found myself twirling around the living room shouting, “I’m so happy!”
There were many reasons I felt that way, not the least of which was waking up and finding I had slept through the night without being robbed or raped, neither of which are happy experiences, as I well know. There is always an element of fear that arises the first night I sleep alone in a strange house. No matter how many times I rationalize that the likelihood of disaster befalling me the minute Joel goes away is very slim, still I find myself double checking the locks, contemplating taking a knife to bed, wondering if the car not being parked outside (Joel having driven it to the airport) will be the all-clear sign the local robber/rapist has been waiting for.
So, yes, I was extremely happy to awake unsullied and further more to a crisp clear day, the morning sun spreading its rosy blush on the ruins of the Marquis de Sade’s castle (thank god he’s long gone!) and one of the neighboring cats sitting stock-still in the pollarded branches of the plane tree. And who wouldn’t be happy to walk to the Boulangerie for a baguette and a croissant, the latter of which I slathered with goat cheese and honey, relishing every flaky morsel accompanied by café au lait?
It’s funny really, or not, to think of all those moments in life, especially when we
are young, or younger, moments of deep unhappiness when we fantasize about what we think would make us happy. The lists of ‘if-only’ tending toward the grandiose; fame, money, a bigger house, more of something, or everything and hey, I know I’m living in a nice house in Provence and I don’t have to set the alarm, or get the kids off to school, or borrow money – I did all that – but the point is, the things that made me happy yesterday (and today) have nothing to do those fantasies of bigger and better. What made me happy was waking up; that walk to the bakery, every flake of the croissant, sweeping the floor, doing a load of laundry, bringing in 3 loads of firewood, preparing a pot of soup, making a drawing, sitting outside during a few moments of becalmed sun, reading by the fire, and watching the evening sky; the golden light parrying with a bank of storm clouds, the gold changing to orange and red and in the distance veils of rain descending and somewhere, I thought, there’s a rainbow.
And here’s a happy coincidence: as I was musing on the rainbow that I could feel but not see, Joel was driving toward me, capturing it in frame after frame. Talk about bringing home the bacon!