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June 11, 2013

Ron has fixed the basement and we have each taken a turn carrying newly-dried stuff back down there.

A family with a 9-year-old wants our rabbit hutch, with its asphalt shingle top, the wooden nest box, ceramic water dish, treats, toys, and litter.  photo-56

The sight of Tristan, our youngest cat, on the stairs in our back yard reminds Ron and me of a children’s book we used to read to our kids, Cat Among the Cabbages, by Alison Bartlett.

We are working during the day and drifting into a summer habit of elongating our evenings, believing that it’s not late because the sun doesn’t set until 9.

The garden is full of rain-brightened green that will soon be shadowing the orange and pink of impatiens. photo-55

It is my favorite time of year, with most of the summer ahead. Summer, for me, is happiness. And here is Susan Griffin’s poem “Happiness,” written for Barbara Green:

Happiness. I am not used
to this. (There is always
something wrong.)
Look at it
the bright early tree.
(I am trying to find out
how you fell.)
The leaves have already turned.
(I want you to see
this, how they
glow outside the glass.)
Morning light strikes
differently. For so
many years I hardly
had time to know such
moments. They struck me
with such intensity
I would have said
battered me open.
I never understood
they were mine.
I was panicked.
Unhappiness caught up with me
all the time.
Did you know
the speed of light never alters
even when you go faster
it will be
still that much faster
than you?
(I am thinking that in your fall
something momentous occurred.)
What I see as beautiful
I want you to see too.
Next door, the workmen are hammering.
Very soon we’ll go to lunch.
For some reason this moves me to tears.
How life is.
(One does not have to explain
what occurs. One only need say
it has meaning.)
Years ago, when I was young
I traveled to Italy, took in
the great sights. I was in awe, yet
I did not understand
seeing Masaccio’s frescoes
fading like shadows into the walls,
this would be the only time
nor that
I would never forget.
Those muted shades are
still with me, as possession
and longing, and the view too
of the square before that church
the air, newly spring,
that day, all of it.
Life, I have finally begun to realize,
is real.
(All this time you recover
from falling
will sink indelibly into mind.)
The leaves
may fall before you are able
to see them. Science
has recently learned
the line
of existence is soft
and stretches out like a field
wind and light shaping the grass
of sight giving consciousness
force. In the meantime
we live out our lives.
(This morning we talked for so long
everything became lucid.
How can I say what I see?)
At each turning
perfection eludes me.
One moment is not like another.
Last spring
the house next door caught fire.
There was the smell of gas.
We thought
both houses would go.
I vanished up the hill,
went to the house of a friend
where we listened for flames
and to that aria from Italian
opera, was it the one of love,
or jealousy, or grief?
My house was untouched.
Now the one next door is painted,
fixed. In place of
perfection, the empty hands
I turned out to the world
are filled.
With what? A letter
half written, the notes
I make on this page,
this new feeling about my shoulders
of age, that sad child’s story
you told me this morning,
the workmen’s tools sounding
and stopping. What? As time
moves through me, does it also
move through you?
I keep remembering what you said,
ways you have of seeing (and that
light must have curved with
you fall.) This
is the paradox of vision:
Sharp perception softens
our existence in the world.  photo-54

“What I see as beautiful/ I want you to see too.” I want you, readers, to be able to open your eyes to the charm of this particular summer morning, as I did–fresh from dreaming, peaceful from waking without an alarm, moving toward something but aware of the happiness of this particular moment.

What can make you happy today?

19 Comments leave one →
  1. June 11, 2013 10:13 am

    Summer is the best and everyone should see that! If they can’t, there’s something wrong with them. I love waking up and feeling that humid warm summer air coming through the windows and the temperature is just right – the same outside as in. The world is junglized and exact right.

    • Ron permalink
      June 11, 2013 11:01 am

      “The world is junglized…” I like that phrase. Makes me feel like Mowgli.

      • June 12, 2013 9:10 am

        I like that phrase, too. And the way the temperature is just right, and the same outside as in. It makes me feel more like Bagheera.

  2. Gwen Bailey permalink
    June 11, 2013 10:49 am

    Those moments when you know–just know. It doesn’t matter what. Joyce would have called such moments epiphanies, but his moments were immediate. I’m talking about those moments when you’re knowing flows over you slowly, like a sunrise. The moment you realize you are in love. When you look at your child’s face for the first time and you understand that instinctive connection you have with all people all through time.

    Those moments make me happy.

    • June 12, 2013 9:11 am

      I read the poem as about those moments–when slowly you realize that what is happening, right now, is happiness, maybe because it’s about to change.

  3. June 11, 2013 2:28 pm

    This time of the year is definitely my favourite too. I love it, and those elongated evening you write about.

    • June 12, 2013 9:12 am

      I write about the elongated evenings with irony and longing, because now I’m the one who caves in first and has to drag myself off to bed by about 11.

  4. June 11, 2013 7:34 pm

    I steel myself for summer like you steel yourself for winter. But there are still things to rejoice in: early mornings on the roof watching the clouds fracture and clear from the temporarily eciipsed skyscrapers of Manhattan, an unexpected conversation about books with a coworker on the same subway train, praise for small things by people who have no nothing to gain from it, the word “hope” chalked on the sidewalk, the light reflecting off the buildings across the street just now.

    • June 12, 2013 9:14 am

      Summer light is beautiful. I imagine that city life is less conducive to letting a person enjoy the delights of summer. Where I live, the neighbors sometimes joke that we don’t see each other from October to May.

  5. June 11, 2013 9:03 pm

    “There is always something wrong” — without wanting to sound grim, oh how I sympathize with this. I am often happy, but I am suspicious of unexpected happiness. I worry because I haven’t done anything to deserve it, and I keep expecting the other shoe to drop.

    • June 12, 2013 9:15 am

      I get that. It’s part of why I started liking the poem.

  6. June 11, 2013 10:34 pm

    Hmm, happiness today is Mexican dinner with the Huz and packing for my best friend’s wedding in Florida this weekend!

  7. June 12, 2013 7:04 am

    I woke at 4:30 the other day and just had to watch the sun rise even though I should really have gone back to sleep. Summer is just too wonderful. I like the use of brackets in the poem, I haven’t come across their usage much, and the way the poet’s used them to communicate other ideas is interesting.

    • June 12, 2013 9:08 am

      Yes, I also like the (brackets? parentheses?). Elizabeth Bishop’s villanelle “One Art” is what I think of as the masterpiece of the parenthetical.

  8. June 12, 2013 10:32 am

    I love the long days of summer even though it means we have to put up with heat.

  9. June 13, 2013 9:39 am

    I love that photo of the kitty on the stone steps of the garden.

    • June 13, 2013 12:52 pm

      The steps do look a bit like stone, especially in that photo, but they are old and weathered gray wood, the kind for decks.

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