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Happiness and May Sarton

December '08

Recently, greetings from my friend Abby highlighted the results of a study on happiness that seems to be cropping up everywhere. Turns out, happiness is contagious – who knew? Well, most of us. Given a choice, don’t we usually prefer hanging out with joyful and fun-loving folks? It was, however, heartening to learn that the contagion effect of happiness ripples out well beyond the bounds of family and friends.

In her message, Abby also included a poem by May Sarton, called “The Work of Happiness.” Now, I’m not a voracious reader of poetry, but May is an “old friend” of mine. When I was in eleventh grade, she came to our school and opened us to the power of poetry. To this day, I can hear her husky voice reading Carl Sandburg’s words, “The fog comes in on little cat’s feet.” Now that’s a great line!

May came to “visit” me again at midlife in the form of her journals. I was desperately trying to connect with a faint voice inside calling me forward in a new direction. Two of her memoirs, Journal of a Solitude and Plant Dreaming Deep, provided just the right inspiration. So it was a delightful surprise to receive this latest “gift” from May. The last stanza of her poem seems like a perfect way to end a year of remarkable change.

For what is happiness, but growth in peace,
The timeless sense of time when furniture
Has stood a life’s span in a single place,
And as the air moves, so the old dreams stir
The shining leaves of present happiness?
No one has heard thought or listened to a mind,
But where people have lived in inwardness
The air is charged with blessing and does bless;
Windows look out on mountains and the walls are kind.

While writing this newsletter, I’m comfortably ensconced in a leather chair stationed in front of a leaded glass bookcase that once lived in my house and before that resided in my grandparents’ house. I have never understood why it gives me so much pleasure to see it in my older son’s home, but May provides a clue with that phrase, “the timeless sense of time.”

As I scribble beside this bookcase that has dwelled in my family for four generations and sip a cup of freshly-brewed espresso, I feel extremely content. My December wish for you is that you finish the year feeling as blessed as I do at this moment.


P.S. If you would like to learn more about Abby and her book, Finding the Deep River Within, you can check out her website at www.deepriverwithin.com. And you might also find that May Sarton’s memoirs can inspire your midlife journey!

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