Thursday, July 28, 2011

The pre-birthday-dinner post

It's my birthday. Fifty, um, something. I'm sitting at the computer watching birds in the overgrown slippery elm outside the window next to my desk. The glass is covered with anti-glare film, to make it easier to see the computer screen, and the blind is mostly down. It makes it hard for the birds to see me. I've got seven of them within sight, tiny sparrows and some others I'm not sure about, other than suspecting they're young because of their spotted feathers.

How long will they live? A few years? Less than that? The bright red cardinal I've seen around our house for several years now--is he the same bird? Or somebody's grandson?

Next week this foliage will be cut down. The yard's a mess, stuff like volunteer trees got away from me years ago, and my neighbor has house painters coming next week, who need to be able to get at the side of her house. Lorenzo from the landscape company told me "you won't recognize the place." That will be nice, too, but I will miss gazing into the "tree house" from my desk, feeling like I know these birdies well.

Of course, now that I'm trying to take their picture, they've all disappeared. Did someone tweet that there are better bugs to be had elsewhere?

I watched an episode of "Through the Wormhole" last night with my son. It was about humans achieving greater longevity--living a thousand years, even forever. Morgan Freeman's narration made mind-spraining leaps from work on artificial intelligence and graveyard bacteria to aspirations for making the human body, or at least the human mind, last longer. In the final segment, a physics professor, photographed in a New Orleans cemetery, predicted an age thousands of years in the future when humans would merge with God and the universe. His language sounded almost creedal in proclaiming the  communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.

J. S. Bach died on this day in 1750, probably of complications from diabetes. Birds with blow-away feathers and tiny, hollow bones flit through the depth of foliage behind my window now, on this warm summer day. Where will they go next week? My life stretches back over half a century to my mother giving birth--my aging mother who I have to pick up from physical therapy in a few minutes. My children whom we will soon meet for dinner eagerly plan their futures--college, marriage, families, homes.

I'm perched on my chair, writing it all down.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Plain happy

Funny. I just read a short article about how to be happier, and already I'm happier. And I did not, believe me, sit down at the computer with hidden wells of happiness just waiting to be tapped.

In fact I've spent a lot of time lately thinking about how unhappy I am, and why that might be, and what I might or ought to do about it. And the effort has left me stuck in my misery, feeling like there's no remedy.

And then I go and read some self-absorbed self-help author's five book recommendations on happiness and not only does my mood lighten, I'm searching for Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson at the library web site and thinking I need to start a knitting group or a book group or a Friday afternoon beer-at-a-sidewalk cafe group. And act happy for the sake of the people who have to live and work with me.

Does this suggest that perhaps happiness will not be found by looking inward? Or that I am more suggestible than most people? Does it all comes down to just suck it up, get over it, do something? And act happy, for the sake of those who have to look at you, work with you, live with you? Within reason. I need more than a shimmering tinsel veneer of happiness -- irritating in others, ironic, overblown and ugly in me.

Striving, said the Buddha, is what makes us unhappy. It's the human condition, it's a lost cause. Being a blob is no recipe for happiness either, but working at something--that's good.

Not much wisdom in this post, not much eloquence, not much poetry. Happiness is plain stuff.