Yesterday I walked around carrying a secret smile, feeling content and happy as I rode to and from work and contemplating an evening with old friends who are in town from back home, and my girls. As I rode on the subway to meet everyone at our friends’ hotel, I got thinking about the idea of contentment, and how it relates to “happy.” Does the presence of the former always result in the latter? Because goodness knows “content” isn’t a term I’d use to describe myself; I’ve never been particularly content. But I have been happy for substantial chunks of my life.
Leaving my hometown and coming to this city was a product of that perpetual discontentment, but leaving behind certain people and certain familiarities was the painful part of that decision. Leaving was something I had to do in striving for my own happiness, but it didn’t come without consequence, psychologically and financially. But as I have been reminded each time I return there, the love of my people remains steadfast, and maybe that has, in its gentle way, helped me to find my ground here. I still get asked if I will come home, but they all understand why I am here.
They know that in some ways, DIScontentment makes me happy. I have this fear of becoming stagnant; of living a life of never changing, never growing. I don’t suppose all the moving around I’ve done is necessarily akin to growth and change – I know many people who have lived in a place all their lives and have evolved and grown in all kinds of beautiful ways. But there is this constant yearning to “move on” within, and maybe my physical moving around is a misguided manifestation of that. Happiness is often associated as the end product of the striving – when we all know it’s the striving itself that really causes happiness; the small, sometimes methodical steps; the actions.
Last year, in an attempt to live the notion that ‘happiness is the journey not the destination’ I turfed the quest of finding “home” in this new city and left it up to “home” to find me. I had some journeying to do in the meantime. It was the right decision. I still consider my current home as a “temporary place to hang my hat” but it doesn’t matter anymore. The discontentment has been sent back to where it belongs – in my mind – no longer directed at the walls and streets around me.
Maybe my feeling of contentment yesterday was because the “twain met.” The comfort of the love and history and fellowship from back home lived together in the realm of the discontented soul, gently tugging it back from the journey for a bit of a breather.
And I was still wearing that secret smile when I walked home at the end of the evening and went to bed.
Sled, swoop down and whisk
me ahead of Mad Wind’s rage,
thrashing icy whips.
This is a Magpie Tale. For more creative takes on this and other beautiful visual prompts, click here.
the year drags me
kicking and screaming
never ready to stand on cold feet
slush sprayed over me by lurching taxi cabs
I still haven’t found my red gloves
and I don’t want to wear that
serviceable warm coat
I’d rather wear the one with the flattering cut
and the not serviceable boots
the kind that men turn to look at
and well I never much liked being cold and
I’ve slipped on sidewalks
more times than I'd like to remember
winter steals my dignity
though when I was a kid I didn't care about dignity
or the cold
in the fervour of intense play
outside so long
your legs would sting like a thousand pins were pricking them when you came in
but mom would have hot chocolate in the cupboard
the kind made with milk in a pan on the stove
in the stove light and
you got new flannel pyjamas
with that sweet smell that went away after the first wash
but they got softer
and Mr. P. on the corner would put up Christmas lights all over his yard
I never went for such an ostentatious show
when I grew up
but man could my old house get pretty
smelling like pine
all that oak trim aglow
against the frost laced windows and indigo tinted atmosphere in the street
the furnace would kick in
like a benevolent grandpa
when you came in the front door
after chatting with the neighbours
while we shovelled the sidewalks
and the walks of the old people
a job I loved
it made me feel strong and capable – that most satisfying exercise
and full of that proverbial good cheer
I think it's the pink cheeks
under the descending flakes
under the incandescent street lights
later I’d sit by the pretty old windows
admiring the street and generous porches and warm lights coming from the windows behind them
recalling life in the country
when the snowstorms that bound everyone in for a few days
were the best ones
I am always kicking and screaming
going toward winter
I fancy it when I get there
Light in the Window:
Fleeting, I accuse sometimes
Still you prove steadfast
Arrows slung with cheek
You’re a light in the window
To a humble heart
A window’s beacon
I am cloaked in your welcome
Heart’s direction home
The other day I go down to the atrium for a cup of tea and a quick read. Not long after I sit down an old guy sits near me. His wife follows right after, fiddling with a bag and says, “so you’ll just wait here until I get back?”
“Yeah! I’ll wait here,” he snaps as she walks over to a medical office.
The man’s voice is as craggy as that of his demeanour. He looks to be in his late 70s, but perhaps the demeanour ages him. He flips open a cell phone and calls someone’s voicemail and complains about what he calls an unfair charge and demands, as a 35 year customer, that the charge be rescinded.
I’m annoyed. I came down here for a few alone moments with my book and it seems I’m going to have to listen to this guy’s private conversations. As I’m considering finding another place to sit, the man connects with someone else, presumably a friend.
“Listen Jimmy I don’t want to make you mad or insult you or anything, but I need to talk to you about what you said to Dotty the other day…
“Listen, when you told me, in front of her, that I need to talk to her nicer, you made my life a living hell. Now every goddamn time I open my mouth she’s on me for not talkin’ nice to her…
“No… listen, I’m not mad, but you gotta know what she’s like! You have no idea. When you see her, when she comes by, she’s all nice and sweet. When it’s me and her, my life is HELL.”
And then he starts to up the tone – and the ante.
“Ya, ya, but wait. You really don’t know her. You don’t know what she’s like at home. She LIES.
Wait, wait – here she comes.”
The offending Dotty returns and fusses in her bag again and her craggy man has magically switched his voice over to a conversational tone and is talking about the Blue Jays and the weather. She returns to the medical office and the agitation is back.
“Your words are now written in stone man. EVERYTHING I say to her makes her fucking jump all over me saying I don’t talk nice to her and she deserves fucking better and all that. She's a BITCH.
He’s like a pot coming to a boil. Sitting at the edge of his seat his voice gets louder and I get more uncomfortable, wishing I could say “Yo, buddy – I’m right here! I didn't need to know this!”
“Nobody knows how she talks to me. She’s nice when everyone else is around but with me. Well… no… listen, really… Jimmy… Jimmy! She’s a BITCH. I have to be so fucking careful and it’s impossible to please that woman. Maybe if someone gave her a hundred thousand dollars or somethin' she’d just fucking leave…”
Finally the Craggy One seems to notice he’s not alone and walks away to another area to finish convincing Jimmy of Dotty’s double personality. His voice has raised up another notch and I hear regular crescendos of the emphasising the wrath of Dotty because Jimmy said the Craggy One should speak nicer to her.
I think about the years that have passed in the life of Dotty and the Craggy One and wonder when it was that love turned to such bitterness. I wonder if they’ll, at some point, look back on their lives together and see any value in their days turning over, seasons evolving into the next, and their having grown old together, choosing each other to finish out their lives with.
I go back to my office think I’d still like to grow old with someone. Whoever you are – let’s not let it come to that, ok?
Okay, this is last week's Magpie Tales prompt. I loved the prompt, I just didn't get it together. But then yesterday I was talking about the inspiration I find in Victoria Williams and I mentioned the Sweet Relief benefit album(s) of the nineties, and I thought of this song – another oft-played favourite of Victoria's songs in my home, this time interpreted by "that firecracker" Maria McKee.
I couldn't pull it together for the Magpie Tales Tuesday launch, and I've already started to write this week's "tale" based on this week's Magpie prompt. But what the hell – Victoria said pretty much what I was not able to pull together, so better late than never, I say.
(Bad video – gets cut off at the end. But just buy it on i-tunes, or dare I say it – buy the album on CD! You'll be glad you did.)
August I want to hide in you; to bathe alone in your ethereal yellows and purples and greens; and then float away with the Queen Anne’s Lace on the side of the dirt road.
I want to crawl into your burgeoning ditches and sleep away long nights while you tread slow, waving breezes with your arms, making soft kisses on my skin.
I want to awaken with your dew in the grass in morning and find that the new pears and apples and rhubarb and gooseberry and tomato upstarts have already started the coffee and breakfast which we will of course have outside.
Rubbing my eyes I’m begging now, don’t leave August.
I need you with your lolling boats in the pendulum waters; your mellow and rich demeanour bewitching, casting sunshine diamonds on the water and pulling warm breath from the rocks.
August, you are summer grown up; I have caught up with you.
But don’t go.
Don't unlock me now;
maybe later, or Tuesday.
Until then, I'm yours.
Unlock me Tuesday.
Tuesday's the first opening;
after that, it's May.
Unlock me in May;
but only on a Tuesday.
Or, let's wait until April.
I see bed-head and sleep-squashed skin. You see cosy and tousled. I see lumps and new sags and wrinkles. You see respite and contentment in the white cotton sheets; knees that would be salty and wet, lolling in a rowboat off the coast of somewhere, or red painted toes offering a playful kick in the jaw.
You find hearts filled with the scent of forests or minds intertwined around the harvest moon and symphonies of crickets. Earthy songs, tales of hill walks, lakeside trysts and kitchen tables in the morning.
Or the translucent morning light recalling my beauty in your forever loyal eyes.
“We may be gorgeous to each other, like chocolate,” you said, “but there's something that transcends oceans.”
Despite your penchant for Barry Manilow songs, you are more gorgeous than chocolate, and I’ll always get cosy and tousled with you.