Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A Happiness Poem in 8 Parts: Flashes from my Ithaca Life

This was originally written a few years ago, in 18 parts. But yesterday I was invited to read a poem at tonight's meeting of the Tompkins County Legislature, as they celebrate the county's 200th birthday (which is officially on April 7). I said Yes, since I'm always looking for an excuse to share some happiness, but I figured 18 examples was just too much. So I did some quick revisions and read this version at the meeting. 


happiness is when you're moping around your apartment on a cold wet Sunday afternoon, bemoaning the fact that the only time the phone rings these days is when someone — usually just a recorded voice — is trying to get you to buy something you don't want, and so you're startled when the phone actually rings in the middle of these morose thoughts, and it turns out to be a dear friend who used to live here, but now she lives there, and she wants to hear all the local gossip, which you want to share, and you both laugh and talk, for more than an hour, and when you get off the phone you are in such a great mood

happiness is when you are out for an early morning walk around the neighborhood, and the sun is so bright in your eyes that you can't see a thing, and it's a surprise when a person passes you, and all you know about that other human being is that he, or she, smells very good


happiness is when you call Time Warner Cable customer service first thing in the morning, and in less than 2 minutes you are connected with a real person named Eric, and you explain your problem, and he understands immediately, and tells you to press one button, and then another button, and you do these things and your problem is solved, so you say Hurrah and Eric (a very young man) says "excuse me?" and you say it again — Hurrah — and then you thank him over and over because now you can watch the Inspector Morse DVD you rented from Netflix

happiness is when you bring 8 books to Autumn Leaves Used Books to trade for store credit, and after a quick look around you find something you want — "The Rarest of the Rare: Vanishing Animals, Timeless Worlds," by Diane Ackerman — and even though you think it is possible that you already read this book when it was first published, you gladly take it home because you remember nothing about the short-tailed albatross or the golden lion tamarin — and you still have lots more store credit you can use on a future visit

happiness is when you go outside to sweep away the first gentle snowfall of the season, and when you say hello to a stranger walking by he tells you this is his first snow in 26 years, because right after graduating from Ithaca High School he moved to Atlanta, and today is his first day back in Ithaca

happiness is taking yourself out for lunch at New Delhi Diamond's Restaurant, for their amazing Saturday buffet that includes Bhindi Masala — okra and peppers and onions — and you are very proud of yourself: you avoid the white rice, and potato puffs, and even those golden pillows of fried dough, and when you leave you're feeling both full and healthy 

happiness is walking into Bramble, that collective of local herbalists, in Press Bay Alley, right around the corner from Diamond's  — the warm welcoming  atmosphere enveloping you the second you open the door, and you come home with a jar of coconut/lavender cream called "Cloud Butter," and also with a small bottle of Dandelion Flower Essence to aid in your efforts to Be More, and Do Less (it says that, right on the label)

happiness is when you wonder if a small poem will find you on this day, so you open a haiku book for inspiration, and your eyes land on the words "peace of mind," and right away you feel calmer, and you take a deep breath, and then another, and realize you are no longer anxious about a poem —  it will come or it won't come — so you lace up your sturdy shoes and head out the front door, walking toward the sun