On Rediscovering Happiness

5.1. Hike

May 3, 2020
Nogal House
Indian Divide, New Mexico

On Rediscovering Happiness

I have chosen a heady title for a Sunday morning but it is what has come to mind. Maybe it is because I slept late, and was able to do so. There is a joy in lying still in the first light of day to listen to the birdsong and to savor the pure stillness that accompanies that. After so many years of forced effort the opportunity to begin the day as I wish will never lose its pleasure, even if I am inclined to be up early. This morning I yielded to temptation as I had been up late last night, listing instead to the high thin howl of the coyotes in the distance. There was a thrill in that also and if I live in a remote enough place it was easy to allow my imagination to take me back to the pure wilderness. The fact is, I am beginning to rediscover the essence of that feeling right here at home. Not that the wilderness does not have its own brand of joyfulness to offer, as it does, but that serenity and joyfulness are as much a state of mind as they are of place. They are as present here in Nogal as they are in Dusty, though Dusty has its own brand of serenity also.

When I venture into the wilderness I am able to shed the worries and concerns of my day to day existence. By doing so I can then allow the pure essence of life to surround me in their stead. I can breathe deep of the freshness of the air. I can take in the pure blue sky and the sweet sound of nature and if I am so lucky hear the whisper of the wind from the deep and distant canyons as I did just days ago, all in my back yard. I am at present realigning myself with that brand of joyfulness and can then discover it in almost every instant of the day if I pause long enough to allow it. I slipped down to a nearby spring yesterday evening to gather some watercress and it was there. It greeted me at my door this morning as I stepped into the warmth of the morning sun. In the absence of distraction I find beauty all around me.

I am rediscovering my happiness, for I have been happy here before. At the beginning of this year I was so happy as to remind myself to cling to every instant as I know how fleeting that emotion can be. It was more than an emotion, it was a state of mind. I was finally settled back here at home for the long run. I had plans in motion, I was healthy and being creative. I even had a few dollars in the bank and a sparse but steady income. Life was good and for the following few weeks it basically stayed that way though the specter of the ‘Wuhan Virus’ was more than a bit worrisome. I felt the crisis building long before it arrived and even raised a few eyebrows when I mentioned it to those who were less concerned. I ignored them and went about my preparations until I drove myself into a near frenzy of concern. The gradual escalation of the worldwide media machine certainly egged me on, but I took the bait also. Paradise lost.

It is amazing how quickly ones self-imposed solitude can evolve into misery! It is one thing to gladly stay home and watch as winter turns to spring. Somehow it is something entirely different when we are told to stay at home. We are still under those restrictions but things have changed, at least for me. The highly anticipated wave of illness did not reach us here, though it still rages elsewhere and could arrive at any time. Winter has turned to spring and summer approaches rapidly. The urgent sense of crisis has evolved into a sense of preparedness. If I was thrilled to be more prepared for such an event than I thought I was, I have now put it into practice. I have a functional solar power system, a nice generator, a growing garden and hopefully soon will have a solar well pump for my water needs. If that works out I will turn my eye to a small propane refrigerator which will pay for itself in the savings for ice by the end of the summer. Not needing to buy ice every few days could reduce the need to go to town by a week at a time, or even more with my garden in place. I have also made another important discovery. Throughout this entire exercise nothing much has changed in my immediate surroundings but I have run the gamut of emotion only to arrive back where I started. By reacting so quickly to all the external impacts I was led to question the very foundation of my life’s practice and plunged myself into a sense of near apathy. Now weeks later I am still here, alive and well, as happy as I have been in years and well fitted for any future crisis. This is rather interesting to say the least.

Would I want to start this effort all over again, as we may well have to? Not really, but I am much better prepared for that should the need arise. I also have a heightened appreciation for my family and friends and going forward I am going to incorporate them into more of my life. I need some social interaction, and always have, but more so now. My solitude is precious to me. I love my mornings alone and would not wish to be distracted at this very moment, but I would certainly welcome it more than I had in the past. That said, I am not ready for things to go back to business as usual, not quite yet. That is easy for me to say because I am also prepared to endure at least a few more weeks of limited travel and interaction. In fact, I will be even more creative at developing the mean to sustain that if I have the time to do so. I am going to work at that regardless of what is to come because I like the idea. I also want to stay healthy and not have to test the integrity of my immune system. Staying well is an absolute priority but I also want to be sure I have completely learned this new lesson so I do not forget it.

This has, over everything else, been a lesson on rediscovering my happiness. It took some effort and a fair degree of misery to arrive here. It is a class I do not want to repeat. I was able to restore my physical health with some effort but relative ease and I am determined to maintain that. Turning my focus to my spiritual health and wellbeing took a bit more effort, but I have accomplished that also. Much of that involved the taking away of things. I took away much of the distraction. If I could rattle off statistics when the outbreak first ran through China and began its circuit of the world and our country, I now know very little. I know our county here in New Mexico has been all but untouched. I know that the Navajo Nation and the state of New York have been hit hard. I also know that whether I follow the news or not things here at home remain sole and separate from that. Except for the limits on my interaction outside of my home and the fact that I cannot do business as usual at my gallery, my life is my own. At present I am happy and I will do all that I can to maintain that.

This essay is for all of us who have discovered some new degree of happiness in the midst of an ongoing crisis. It is also for all of those who are still struggling. This is a great reckoning. The old adage of asking oneself ‘is this a matter of life or death’ to measure the importance of something stands so clearly in this moment. Has this been a matter of life or death? Yes, certainly. None of us has any way to know for certain if we can or will survive a case of this virus unscathed. Even if it doesn’t kill you it can make you wish you were dead. Even those who will scoff at the thought would have second thoughts about going into a crowded room of sick people in order to test their immunity. If I would be glad to know that I was able to survive the illness and then go on about my business I will be just as happy to never have to find out. I am going to go forward with my life with a greater degree of caution just for that reason. But I am also going to go forward with the understanding of how very fortunate I am to be able to even make that statement.

I know someone who died from this. He was twenty years younger than me. I taught him in class in December and proctored his certification exam. He is dead, one of more than forty people on the Navajo Reservation who didn’t have the ability to fight this off. His death, along with all of the people who passed will serve as a reminder for me of why I owe it to myself and everyone else to live as well and as happily as is humanly possible. We are all here for each other, to support and encourage, to learn from and teach to and to respect and protect each other. We all teach and learn from example and I want to be a good one. I have made my share of mistakes and learned from them also. Now I want to take as many of the blessings and affirmations I have received and be here long enough to share them with everyone else who cares to listen. This was, and is my lesson on rediscovering happiness. Prayers for wellness to everyone!

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