Tag Archives: mary oliver

a hungry heart

field of red poppies in ItalyFrom Mary Oliver:

“We all have a hungry heart, and one of the things we hunger for is happiness.  So as much as I possibly could, I stayed where I was happy.”

This reminds me of something that my ex said to me as we were splitting up.  He said that he wasn’t too worried about me, because I was happy no matter what happened.  While there’s some truth to that, and I think it comes from having a lot of really awful things that have happened over the years (so awful, so out of my control), that I generally choose not to wallow in misery but to make the best of my circumstances.  But that’s somewhat different than being happy–that’s just survival.

Being happy, in my mind, is a daily act of choosing joy:

It’s the parking-lot-Chewbacca-mask Mom who can laugh at herself and at the simple joys of her life (without worrying about how she looks to millions of strangers).

It’s jumping into Walden Pond and taking a long swim even though that’ll mean that your hair is a mess for the rest of the day.

It’s pulling over to take a photo of a field of poppies even when you’re running late for your train.

It’s drinking straight out of the milk bottle because every other cup in the kitchen is dirty.

It’s getting sand in your shoes because of a spontaneous ramble at the beach.

It’s getting up at 2am to stare at the full moon.

It’s building wooden things with simple tools.

It’s a cozy chair and a novel.

It’s supporting the people you love as they embark on their own journeys.

It’s a text message with silly emojis.

It’s starting the day with a walk in the garden, noting how things have changed since yesterday and imagining how they will be different tomorrow.

It strikes me, as I read this list, that many of the ‘happinesses’ that come to my mind right now are solitary ones.  In years past there were so many more that came from caregiving for my children and from time with my community.  While those are still important to me, I spend most of my work-work time with people everyday, that the small acts of happy-solitude feel like a necessary counterweight to teaching/leading/collaborating.

(poppies, taken by me in Italy five years ago)