Thursday, November 27, 2014

Not Just the Stuff of Memories

Out on bikes side by side with a friend, it was one of those late Autumn mornings, simultaneously freezing and piercingly sunny. The air smelled strongly of dry hay from the farms and dry leaves from the forest, then more softly - like the basenotes of a perfume - of seawater and peat fires. Smoke rose in ringlets over houses at the base of the mountain and was carried up over the ridge to mingle with the streaming sunlight. Wind blew in playful, uneven gusts as the road ahead shone blue with the sky reflected in its glistening wetness from the previous night's rains. My eyes were tearing, my nose was running, the skin on my face was tingling. I was swallowing cold air - my mouth frozen in the shape of a silent "aaawh!" from the sheer sensual pleasure of it all.

From the other side of the road, my friend was smiling and saying something to me, but the words dissolved in the hum of the wind, in the noise of a passing tractor.

"What's that?" I shouted.

More sound that I couldn't make out, then laughter. The hiss of tires on a wet road.

"What?!"

He pulled up beside me now, bumping my handlebars and shaking his head. "I said, you look happy!"

"Oh! Yeah?..."

"Yeah!"  Laughter. Sunlight. Laughter.

"Well, I am!"

And as I said it, I knew all at once that it was true. Not only that, but I knew that it had been all right to admit it, to say it out loud just like that. This was not a fragile, fluttering sort of feeling that manifested itself fleetingly and dissolved as soon as it was acknowledged or noticed. No, this was a thing that had shape, solidity. Biding its time and feeding itself on scraps of emotion, it had now taken root, deep in my chest and in my gut, its branches spreading through my very limbs, its blossoms tingling in my fingertips. Like a resilient weed, it had thrived despite everything that went on around it. It was dense, stubborn, persistent. It wanted to live.

What a thing to realise on a sunny morning bike ride.

Earlier, with another friend I'd had a conversation about this very thing: the experience of happiness. She had wondered whether happiness could be felt, in the moment, at all. Her theory was that - unlike misery, which we're keenly aware of while it's happening - happiness is something only experienced retrospectively, in memories. We will think back to a time in our lives, or to a specific event, relationship, moment, and realise "I was happy then." But how often are we aware of this state while we are actually in it? Do we ever truly feel that we are happy here and now?

A year ago, I would have shrugged my shoulders, been unable to answer. But today, my answer is yes. There's no formula, no clear connection even between cause and effect. Yet it can happen. And as I think about all that's happened over this year past, it is that which I am most thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for reading!

25 comments:

  1. Happy Thanksgiving, or as they call it in Northern Ireland, Thursday, November 27!

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    1. ...which makes it all the more interesting that stores in the UK & IRL are increasingly adaptinh the US model of the post-Thanksgiving 'Black Friday'!

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    2. Oh, and also! See item 10 on this list (not the graffiti; the poster above it). Like Halloween before it, I'm afraid the concept of Thanksgiving is slowly sneaking in to NI culture.

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  2. Perhaps it's the karmic boomerang returning the joy you have brought to readers of your blog. You continually shine a light on the beauty of this world and living in it. Thank you.

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  3. Happy Thanksgiving Velouria, and thank you so much for writing!
    One of your many faithful readers,
    ~ David Miller

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  4. I read somewhere that joy is liquid and happiness is solid. Cheers!

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  5. I remember feeling happy in the moment and stifling it, out of concern that acknowledging it would ruin it. Talk about a Catch 22. Thank you, Velouria, for the courage to stay with it. Next time I hope to follow suit.

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  6. I must have read this a dozen times so far. All the best to you.

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  7. That photo says a lot about what you wrote.

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  8. Once again... It's not that I don't love this blog. But I some times feel your rich descriptive narrative is wasted on its limited audience. This is one of those times.

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    1. Limited how - in quantity or capacity to appreciate? I think V's narrative style is appreciated by the majority of those who read her posts.

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    2. Hi spokeswoman,

      I meant limited in size and scope (cycling community only).

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    3. Thank you, I understand - yes, a small audience of cyclists - though cyclists are not only cyclists, they may be part of several communities.

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  9. Happiness is a warm bike.

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    1. Darn it, and I've been keeping mine in the cold porch & hallway ; )

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  10. glad. Gave a turkey to the food bank. Happy thoughts of warm bellies, unknown to me. I'm happy too.

    Also, got to spend parts of the day with my son back from school, losing to my wife at Scrabble, and proofing my bike leather.

    Lottery ? Who needs it.

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  11. Very giving celebration of the epiphany of joy within one that must be expressed and shared. Beautifully drawn, fresh, and inviting. Thanks so much for sharing with your readers. As always, we are the lucky ones to be indebted to you. Jim Duncan

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  12. Cheers, V!

    (Happiness is like light. Both a particle and a wave. And yes, it can exist in the moment, as you have just proven to yourself.)

    Now, can you get a good pumpkin pie in your bit of NI? That would be a double happiness.

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    1. I suspect this will prove an unpopular admission, but I find pumpkin pie (or soup, or anything that involves it in cooked form) revolting, so I wouldn't know. But they do have the "pumpkin spice latte".

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    2. Hah, one in every crowd! I was just thinking it'd be easier to find there than, say, pecan pie.
      I get the heebie-jeebies from flavored coffee, so that latte wouldn't be for me.
      Hope your day continued to be marvelous (and cooked-pumpkin-free).

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    3. Last time I had flavoured coffee was while cutting class and sneaking to Dunkin Donuts in junior high. I believe it was hazelnut.

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  13. Ancien du Paris BrestNovember 28, 2014 at 6:30 AM

    great picture!

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  14. as a Buddhist, i think the only time you truely experience happiness is in the moment. cycling is also a lot like meditation in that you become keenly aware of your breathing and sense of spaciousness, or sometimes lack thereof around you. some of the happiest and clearest moments of my life have been pedaling my bike.

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  15. So very Thomas Kinkade….I hope you keep your prose more insightful/informative as you move forward. The edge is much more alive than memories.

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