Small Happinesses

Small happinesses are the things that keep me going in these tumultuous times. As Thomas Paine so famously wrote as he tried to  bolster the morale of the thirteen American colonies who were about to break away from Britain: ‘These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman’.

That was in 1765 … and today it seems that we all, all over the world need our morale boosted as civilisation seems to be struggling with crisis after crisis, which I don’t intend to list… we all know what they are. My way of coping with the outside world is to savour the world near home… it does no good to wring my hands over the tragedies and trials cutting their path through lives in every corner of the globe, it seems. So instead of adding to the pile of pain, I try to revel in the goodness of life.

And there’s so much, from the wonderful electrician in the States, who realised that the house of Gloria, belonging to the old woman whose dangerous light fixture he was repairing, needed a lot more repairs to her dilapidated old house. On Facebook he organised a crew of tradesmen who came along and repaired and rebuilt and improved the lonely old lady’s home. They also befriended her, calling themselves Gloria’s Gladiators, and thus sparked off other communities who now do the same. (I bet Gloria’s Gladiators were both Republicans and Democrats, because goodness, generosity of spirit and kindness don’t recognise politics or boundaries)

Then there’s the new trend of leaving a bunch of flowers on a park bench or in a bus shelter to lift spirits, and for someone to take and enjoy. There’s the old lady who used to walk around our local park refilling with water all the bowls she left under hedges for birds and the chickens who lived there; the woman who began leaving books in a phone box in an English village for people to borrow and enjoy during lockdown, which developed into a place where people left fresh eggs and home grown vegetables, and meals for people who needed them, and notes about services they could offer for free.

There’s the retired fire fighter who sold his house and bought a small country place where he could re-house all the stray cats trapped and due for death in his town, and who now has rescued ducks and dogs and donkeys and pigeons. He works at night in order to support his menagerie. I met him in the hospital ward where I lay – where this big burly man was dancing a light-footed tango to cheer up his sick mother.

Just reading about these committed, not random, acts of kindness lifts my spirits, and then there are other heart lifting small happinesses.

My Albertine rose is blooming, bright pink buds flowering into blowsy pale pink powder puffs- we nursed it through drought and storm and the most dangerous attacks of all, from hungry possums who love its buds. Night after night we draped it in layers of mosquito netting to foil the pests, and now it’s rewarding us with all its beauty.

There’s the small happiness of feeding the wild quails and waiting for the day they bring their tiny fluffy offspring… the pleasure of subsiding tiredly into a well-made bed, the satisfaction of accidentally stirring ginger into asparagus soup instead of garlic from an identical jar, and finding the soup now has an inner warmth that comforts my chest as well as pleasuring my taste buds.

There’s the joy of sitting with friends as we did last night, eating, drinking and laughing under a starry sky, waves of perfume from blossoming manukau trees wafting by, and thinking, oh bliss, more lovely honey for this year… watching the planets and the constellations come out, Mars and Orion the brightest, the light of satellites beating across the dark void, the flashes from an old iridium satellite… and an owl calling nearby. As the sky sparkled with coruscating jewelled pricks of light the words of beauty from Yeats poem crowded into my mind:

‘Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light… ‘
The last line reads ‘Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.’ Yes, we do still dream and we do long for a peaceful world in these ‘times that try men’s souls.’

And small happinesses for me are the signposts to finding our peace in our own corner of the world.

Back in 1945, writer Frances Partridge wrote: “I used to assume that there was some stream of human existence which would prevent any great loss of civilisation already won. Now it seems as though that very thing has happened… and the violence of the present world. Oh how one longs for tolerance, humanity, kindness and for thought and discussions to come back into their own again.”

When re-reading those words written seventy- five years ago (another small happiness, re-reading the books one enjoys) it felt as though the turmoil engulfing the world at the moment is yet another turn of the wheel. It seemed to me that rather than be overwhelmed by times that try men’s souls, we can still dream of making a better world; that small happinesses, and committed kindnesses, and goodwill to all men can be the yeast that quietly helps us all to rise above fear, judgement, grief, and anger, or despair, doubt and despondency during this turn of the wheel. These small happinesses bring us back to the present moment, and anchor us in the goodness of the world.

Roses and birdsong, starry skies and soft rain, all the gifts of the world can comfort and enrich us if we recognise them. We just need to remember to look and feel. We are not ‘sunshine patriots’ in Paine’s words. We are citizens of the world, and our optimism and courage can be our gifts to our world and our civilisation, and our next step into the future as the wheel turns once again.

PS Not having blogged for a while, I find that WordPress in its wisdom has changed the method of posting a blog… hence the strange appearance of a photo I hadn’t intended to use, but gave up in the end… que sera sera…

17 Comments

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17 responses to “Small Happinesses

  1. You have so eloquently written what occupies my days too. The appreciation of small things is no small thing.

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  2. What a very beautiful and inspiring post, thank you dear Valerie. I am currently reading “The Magic” by Rhonda Byrne. This book encourages us to list ten things we are grateful for everyday and to say thank you three times after each listing.
    Your post is just that. A positive acknowledgement of all the good things that are happening around us. That is what we need to focus on.
    Good deeds, generosity and positivity is what we need to give out now to attract more of the same .
    I am in bed drinking my very first cup of tea and reading your post has lifted my heart.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you.
    Véronique 🌻

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Veronique,
      What a treat to see your name, and then read your lovely words. Birds of a feather flock together, and knowing our community of bloggers, I know too that we do all feel the same about the good things around us.
      I loved knowing that you too, savour your first cup of tea of the day in bed, and playing in your computer… the ties that bind us !!! XXX

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  3. Dear Valerie,

    How sweet to see your name in my inbox this morning. In a world that seems to have gone insane, it’s nice to read a voice of peace and reason. Caring and kind people do exist and their good deeds abound.
    Word Press is a pain in everyone’s backsides these days. I’ve found ways to get around the new methods. I’m not sure who decided their new methods were a good idea. The vast majority of the Friday Fictioneers has been complaining about it.
    At any rate, thank you for this uplifting post.
    Love to you both,

    Rochelle

    PS A Christmas card is on its way via snail mail. Perhaps it will get there in time for the holiday. 😉

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    • Lovely to hear from you Rochelle, and I can’t tell you how relieved I was to hear that I’m not the only one struggling with Word Press’s bright ideas – I suppose someone is justifying their existence and their pay check by devising new ways of tormenting we users ! (especially incompetent ones like me)
      You are such a loyal reader. Thank you for your words of appreciation, as ever, you support me with your words and enthusiasm. How sweet of you to think of sending us one of your beautiful cards – you’re right about the snail part of it – I think Covid and fewer flights everywhere must be affecting mail.
      We are coming to the end of a particularly hectic stage here, and keep promising ourselves a week off, which never seems to happen!
      Much love from us both, Valerie

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Log on to Worpress and get the WP Admin page. Then click on the Admin page, then click on Post—at the very top of Post there is a box that says ADD NEW Click on the down arrow. Two choices will come up….Block Editor and Classic Editor will appear. Click on Classic Editor—Now the old and preferred way for me (and you) will come up. It’s much easier to use and lets you choose your photos as always.

    A small happiness! 🙂

    LOVE YOU!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Angela Ogden

    Those roses!!! What a lovely surprise to see you again….another small ‘pleasing’, along with our gardens, treasured books, music & moments of silly laughter that all help us get through such strange times with a small grain of sanity left!! Thank you for being you & sharing it!
    Love
    Angela

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    • Angela, lovely to see your name and read your words, I’ve always valued your appreciative comments and our long distance friendship. Your loyal support and understanding are one of my ( not small) happinesses,
      Many more happinesses to you,
      love Valerie

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  6. A lovely meditation on the power of small happinesses – and those with big hearts. Just this morning I was walking in the park and noticed that someone had left a small packet on the railings containing a piece of crochet for a stranger to take away – part of a group called ‘random acts of crochet kindness’. I left it for someone more in need of cheer to find!

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  7. Dear Andrea, so good to see your face and read your thoughts – love your your phrase ‘big hearts’ – so true. Thank you as ever for your perception and comments – love the idea of random acts of crochet kindness – what imagination – goodness is so often imaginative and innovative, compared with the limiting deadness of negativity …wishing you lots of good cheer, Valerie

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  8. A heartfelt yes to enjoying small happinesses and to spreading goodness. Last thing at night I think of 10 things for which I’m grateful and even on the worst of days it reminds me to count my blessings.
    P.S. If, as I do, you prefer WordPress’s classic editor not the new block one, instead of clicking add new, click on Posts (on the left of the dashboard screen) then click ‘all posts’ and at the top left you’ll see ‘Posts’ and Add New with an arrow, if you click the arrow it gives you the choice of Block editor or Classic Editor. It’s much easier than that sounds and much easier than dealing with the new Block Editor.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your good advice, Ele – great to know that there’s a way around the machinations of WordPress !
      Loved your words about counting your blessings… one of my favourite essays in a National Trust book called Small Pleasures was one on Gratitude, which made me aware of the way gratitude, counting our blessings, can change our life!

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  9. How lovely to find you in my inbox again. I’m with you on finding the small happinesses. They do turn upon all sorts of places if one looks around and keeps one ears to the ground! We are going into winter with grey days so it’s particularly good to read of sunshine. Our garden birds feed all the more readily as the berries in the hedgerows dwindle and they are lots and lots of small happinesses.
    I see that homepaddock has advised about the awful block editor which many of us dislike. I still use the Classic.
    I hope that whatever took you to hospital where you met the tangoing fire-fighter has improved and that you are well and happy. With love to you and yours. xx

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  10. Dearest Sally,
    How lovely to find you here when I switched on this morning… for some reason I had been thinking of you when I woke up – and there you were!
    I always think of your Beautiful Things as small happinesses, and I feel such gratitude to you for so conscientiously and persistently sharing with us the beautiful things around you for so many years.
    I gather it’s going to be a cold spell for you at the moment and the birds will be very grateful for your largesse!
    We have hosts of quails with their tiny babies eating us out of house and home, and have decided that next year, somehow, we have to find a way to stop them mobbing our garden – thought my lettuces are protected from their greediness, they eke out their salad cravings by demolishing all my nasturtiums, begonias, geraniums and others!
    We are enjoying a good downpour at the moment so I prepared for it yesterday by cutting all the blooming roses which were going to be battered by the storm, and have filled the house with roses and honeysuckle – summer pleasures, as I think of you girding up for winter…
    Much love to you and yours too, Valerie

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