My grandmother is 96 years old. An almost incomprehensible age. She has eleven great grandchildren, the youngest of whom, at one year old, is 95 years younger than her. She might be older than almost everything around me, including the house I live in and probably most of the trees in my yard, but she’s still, as they say, all there, smart, funny, and often tactless.
On this visit to Israel I soaked up on my Safta’s love and wisdom, feeling stronger than ever how lucky I am to have someone like her in my life. “At my age,” Safta said, “you learn to find happiness in the little things: the song of birds, the fact that the sun rose yet another morning, the blooming cyclamen.” At 96, Safta seems to have stopped worrying about earning money, self realization, or the melting of the arctic ice cap. Like an ancient olive tree on a terraced hillside, my Safta just is.
I often think that, involved in the pursuit of future happiness, we miss the happiness that is right in front of our eyes. I remember, when I was still single, thinking that my writing would, for sure, flow better once I’m in a relationship. Sadly, no such luck. I continually look forward to the times when the kids are with me as times of future happiness, but when the kids come, happiness is as elusive as ever. I’m sure I’ll be really happy if I moved to live in Hawaii. Or Yosemite. Or if my cousins lived nearer to me. Or if I had a King Charles Spaniel to follow me around.
In the pursuit of happiness, we rarely recognize happiness when we feel it, and often confuse our lack of recognition with our ambition to stretch farther the limits of our world. It is easier to pause and smell the roses when I am not rushing to meet friends or thinking about where my next meal is coming from. Embroiled in the struggles of life, a rose seems trivial, a thorn in the way. But just think of the added quality of life that comes from that pause, the lowering of the nose to the open petals, the deep breath that fills the entire body with a perfumed lungful of oxygen and fresh start.
My mother says that even in the ugliest yard there is a splash of beauty. In a busy street in Tel Aviv, the pavement dark with the exhaust fumes of buses, birds sing in the trees, just as in the postcard-view of palms on a sandy Hawaii beach. Similarly, my Safta, in between enjoying the pink buds of the cyclamen, still worries that my 27 year-old cousin is not eating enough. Us humans love to improve, to change, to grow, and though we create much that is dark, we also bring to life much that is wonderful.
|Juice at end of the walk
This morning, before I set out for my walk on the promenade of Tel Aviv, I am setting the intention to notice the little happinesses in life. I wish you the joy of smelling the roses today and noticing the birds singing on every branch. In the midst of every storm, if you can find the sunshine, a rainbow spans. And you know where that leads, right? To where the blue birds fly.