the happiness list

I’m a list maker. A note taker. A sometime journaler. A writer in the margins. Scraps of thoughts. A wisp of an idea. The tinkle of a phrase or whisper of a word. I write them all down.

This is the summer of new adventures. I’m driving down roads I’ve never been down before. Exploring. Growing. Getting down to the basics of living a full life. Good health. Gratitude. Beauty. And happiness there for the noticing. Ah. The noticing.

Happiness, I’ve discovered, is not some designated point on the timeline of my life, some ultimate destination, or final achievement. It arrives in single moments – simple moments – and I’ve learned how important it is to be paying attention.

What makes me happy in the course of a single day?

Depends on the day of course. The season. Me. Responsibilities. What happys me one day is circumstantial to the life I’m living right there and then. Such moments pass quickly, easily-forgotten, and replaced by the next, newest, present breath, vision, or feeling.

Which is why I’m keeping a list.

For me, happiness is all wrapped up with a bow of gratitude, so maybe a happiness list is a lot like a gratitude list, but whatever I call it, I want to be sure my days, my newest adventures, and the smallest, happiest moments of my life are recognized and recorded.

Like a child emptying my pockets of treasures at the end of the day, here’s the happy list from just one afternoon in Vermont:

  • the lush green of trees bordering a hiking trail
  • the sound of rushing water
  • still pond reflections
  • wildflowers
  • a forest floor full of ferns dappled by sunlight
  • the smell of just mowed hay
  • sun on my face
  • Vermont’s state colors: verdant green, the deepest sky blue, barn red, and crisp, white clouds
  • the curve of fence posts up toward the horizon
  • baby sheep
  • curtains billowed by the breeze

I want to live a wonder-full life, awestruck and gratitude filled. Celebrating the regular alongside the unfamiliar and unexpected. Using all of my senses to experience the day I’m living right this very minute. Breathing deeply. Smiling. And satisfied.

What’s on your list?

walk with the flowers

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I love a walking road trip.

Or maybe it’s better called a destination walk?

Either way, I enjoy walking the sidewalks in towns not my own.

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I’m partial to parks, of course, but I also enjoy a slow stroll along someone else’s Main Street.

Window shopping’s fun. But I also love flower box browsing.

What combinations of lovely do other folks plant? What’s blooming on the front stoop?

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As a walking tourist, I guess I have a bit of a floral fascination. I already know just about every shrub, perennial, and pot in my own neighborhood, so it’s a little fun to see how they do it in another neck of the woods.

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When I walk new neighborhoods, I discover what summer abundance grows wild by a garden gate or tucks neatly around a mailbox, what burst of summer celebration hangs lush and colorful from a hook on a front porch.

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It’s a little peek – really – into a life I know nothing about except for the beauty they’re willing to share with a stranger, a passer by, a someone like me who very much appreciates the gift.

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A rose by someone else’s gate … still smells as sweet as my own.

So a grateful thank you to those kind strangers whose streets I walk … and an open invitation to amble past our garden anytime.

Just now, the coneflowers are in full bloom.

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mistaken identity

I’ve been doing a little digging.

(for a book)

And one thing I’ve learned just lately is the difference between Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota,)

Queen Anne’s Lace

and poison hemlock (Conium maculatum).

Poison Hemlock

Quite literally, it’s the difference between life and death.

Unlike Queen Anne’s lace, parts of which are edible, poison hemlock is as its name indicates – a deadly plant and definitely NOT for eating.

But easily confused, apparently, by me.

All this time, I thought I was taking photographs of a prolific and well-loved wildflower – or invasive weed – depending on your point of view. When in reality, I was also sometimes photographing a poisonous imposter.

Poison Hemlock

I even enlarged and framed one of my photographs for our guest room, believing all the while it was lovely Queen Anne’s lace which so nicely complimented the old quilt on the iron bed.

Turns out … I was dead wrong.

Isn’t learning fun?

Queen Anne’s Lace

Named for Queen Anne of England (1665-1714) this lacey flower is frequently found roadside around my New England home. It’s a summer meadow filler too, dainty-looking, but a bit tough to pick.  The flower begins and ends its life pulled in tight on itself in a delicate, little ball – blooming wide open only in the hope of pollination.

Legend has it Queen Anne was quite a lace maker. Once upon a time, she pricked her finger and a single, tiny droplet of royal blood fell upon her lace work – just like the tiny, purple spot found within the central area of her namesake flower.

I just love a story where someone else’s past shows up in my present.

Queen Anne’s Lace

A biennial, Queen Anne’s lace is also known as wild carrot. It’s high in sugar and since Europeans cultivated it, American colonists came to use it as well, boiling the taproot – sometimes in wine.  First year plants are best. Roots work well in soups, stews, and tea. Leaves work well in salad, as do the flowers.

However.

I, for one, plan to continue enjoying both of these flowers, which tend to like the same kinds of space, from behind my camera.

Poison Hemlock

It’s safer there, it doesn’t much matter which elegant flower is which, and my life doesn’t depend on telling them apart.

country road

I reckon my feet know where they want me to go … walkin’ on a country road.

~James Taylor

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The smell of this Sunday’s stroll brought me back to childhood.

I lived two weeks a summer visiting family in northern New Hampshire, skinning my knees, chasing after fireflies, and plucking wildflowers from fields filled with long grasses and a whole bunch of bees.

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I could smell all those memories yesterday afternoon walking on a country road.

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We kept company with goats and turkeys, and we’re newly nodding acquaintances with an old Mack truck backed up into the woods.

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Country roads are like that.

You never know who or what you’ll meet along the way.

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Nothing fancy out there, probably, but the breathing’s easier and life feels just that much simpler.

It’s like finding a little bit of freedom.

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Because when you’re walkin’ on a country road, the distance may be long – but the pace is slow.

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And the burdens don’t feel quite so heavy.