Monday, April 7, 2014

The pursuit of happiness

It was a perfect day and so we did what anyone would do, we went on another picnic. Actually, it would appear that picnic season has officially begun as I am getting swifter at packing the two china plates, the silver wrapped in napkins. I carefully tuck in the wine and glasses and then select an array of charcuterie and cheeses. This is good time food.

It is why we go. For here we are too noise-filled, too hemmed in. In the country - and specifically in the shadows of a cabanon that makes us dream - we find peace. And in that peace, happiness. 

It is something that I have been thinking of lately - yes, again - the fleeting aspect of that particular  bluebird and yet how so often we assume it is our right for her to flutter around us, keeping us company, permanently. No, I see that it doesn't work like that - just as it is useless to chase after that other fickle feathered friend, Youth - the less I demand it, the more it arrives. I do love those rare moments when I can feel everything fold into itself and I am in it, knowing how very good it is. It can be as simple as Remi throwing a stick to Ben and Kipling in the distance. In my watching then seeing, I know. 

I would like to share with you two quotes and a bit of poetry...

"But as I try and understand how life works - and why some people cope better than others with adversity - I keep coming back to something to do with saying yes to life, which is love of life, however inadequate, and love for the self, however found. Not in the me-first way that is the opposite of life and love, but with a salmon-like determination to swim upstream, however choppy upstream is, because this is your stream...What the Americans, in their constitution, call the 'right to the pursuit of happiness' (please note, not 'the right to happiness') is the right to swim upstream salmon-wise." 

-Jeanette Winterson, from her quietly amazing and very poignant memoir, "Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?"

"Pursuing happiness, and I did, and I still do, is not at all the same as being happy - which I think is fleeting, dependent on circumstances, and a bit bovine.

If the sun is shining, stand in it - yes, yes, yes. Happy times are great, but happy times pass - they have to - because time passes.

The pursuit of happiness is more elusive; it is life-long, and it is not goal-centered.

What you are pursuing is meaning - a meaningful life."

-Jeanette Winterson, "Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal?"

"i thank you God for this most amazing 
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of the trees 
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes."

- e.e. cummings

I hope that your spring is full of good things growing.

And that they are not passing at such speed that you don't see them.

Or if the buds haven't bloomed yet, know that you planted the seeds long ago.

They will.

Just find the footpath, no matter how buried it might seem to be...and stay on it.

Have a wonderful week everyone...more on the Fondation Vincent Van Gogh soon...


  1. The new articulation for my life's ambition: to channel greenly spirits and be a bit bovine.

    1. As an aside, sent you an email with an attachment. Confirm receipt when possible as it is not from the address we used to communicated a few years ago.


    2. Aaaand, that would be 'used to communicate.'

  2. Wonderful post.
    As Ben's gray face glows, this is the first time I feel warm, and grateful, seeing Kipling. Blog growing season. Fetching bits of thoughts of words and pictures. Picnic crumbs on a keyboard. Life is good.
    May your week be wonderful as well

  3. We are seeing bits and bobs of spring here, too. Thank you for pulling the quotes, poetry and most of all your beautifully composed photographs into a thought-provoking and artistic whole.

  4. “I do love those rare moments”, the ephemeral and precious. The old vines and the new promise a fragrant spring. The light and shadows will the show the “footpath” even those buried in the subconscious.

    I feel hungry just reading about your picnic.

    Have a wonderful week.

    1. Dear "Simple Images2",

      Heather will already know this poem (supposedly "unfinished" and definitely unpublished during Edna St. Vincent Millay's lifetime) from our correspondence. That said, your wise comment "I do love those rare moments" reminded me of the poem. I expect you'll love it:

      "As sharp as in my childhood, still
      by Edna St. Vincent Millay
      (From an unfinished poem)

      As sharp as in my childhood, still
      Ecstasy shocks me fixed. The will
      Cannot entice it, never could,
      So never tries. But from the wood
      The wind will hurl the clashing sleet;
      Or a small fawn with lovely feet,
      Uncertain in its gait, will walk
      Among the ferns, not breaking back
      One frond, not bruising one fern black,
      Into the clearing, and appraise
      With mild, attracted, wondering gaze,
      And lifted head unhurt and new,
      This world that he was born into.

      Such marvels as, one time, I feared
      Might go, and leave me unprepared
      For hardship. But they never did.
      They blaze before me still, as wild
      And clear, as when I was a child.
      They never went away at all.
      I need not, though I do, recall
      Such moments in my childhood, when
      Wonder sprang out at me again,
      And took me by the heels, and whirled
      Me round and round above the world.

      For wonder leaps upon me still,
      And makes me dizzy, makes me ill,
      But never frightened - for I know -
      Not where - but in whose hands I go:
      The lovely fingers of Delight
      Have hold of me and hold me tight."

      ---David Terry

    2. "But never frightened”
      Yes. Don’t be frightened to seek in art, nature or life the “elusive intensity”.
      Thank you David for remembering Edna St. Vincent Millay’s lovely poem.
      Thank you Heather for allowing my add-on.

  5. What a wonderful post, Heather. Beautiful, wise, thoughtful - just like you. I also spent the weekend away from the noise and bustle. While nature soothed we explored and thought about happiness (and sadness and grief) - and contentment. Fleeting, but somehow always with us... somewhere, maybe hidden from view (just because you can't see something doesn't mean it's not there) like the seeds that haven't quite sprouted yet.

    Hope happiness sits on your should and sings loudly and often this week. XOXO

  6. Lovely post. "Say yes to life." For me, that says so much.

    Spring has sprung here, but along with it, rain - and as usual - too little time!

  7. Hi Heather,

    I've been reading ... (and viewing, your photos are superb) ... quietly for a while now. For me with my blog, it is nice to hear from time to time from readers who don't frequently comment, those silent readers. So, I write to tell you thank you, I greatly enjoy following you, though must admit that when I read from this side of the Atlantic it generates inappropriate quantities of life-in-le-Sud envy!

    I counter that by constantly reminding myself that I live in another beautiful, cycling friendly, culturally smart, place ... rural with urban resources not too far away, that I will be back on bike in France before too long, and yet, and yet....yet ....the happy phenom rears its head. Perhaps here is it still the winter blues. In any case, your post hit that happy question spot on. So thanks also for that.

    We bought a copy of National Geographic, I must get back to Arles to look at the exhibit. And, how funny to have two "Suze" with comments!

  8. I read that e.e. cummings poem at my wedding, and it remains a focal touchstone to me. Now to put Ms. Winterson's book on hold at the library. Thank you, Heather, from Leslie on a glorious day in Portland

  9. What a wonderful post...the quotations from Jeanette Winterson touch the very essence of 'finding true happiness' in everyday Spring and all it's welcomes it with special tenderness because it is so fragile in the earliest moments of bloom.....

  10. A lovely post. The ee cummings quote is one of my favorites, too. Every day bits of happiness stain an ordinary day with joy.

  11. YES, I GET IT!!!!
    I tend to go off the footpath often!
    Ps. Where is my photo???

  12. Thank you for this wonderful post and notes on pursuing.

    We, my cat and I, do pursue happiness. Somehow with our differing rates of human and cat years, we have this year reached a mutual age that encourages a mutual pursuit of slow happiness...a nap in the sun and such.

  13. What a beautiful day for a picnic. Your post is an antidote to the bleakness of our weather today. Lovely quotes.

  14. Oh my dear, thank you for the gorgeous images, and especially for the Winterson quote. Beautiful.

  15. How funny, the draft post I am preparing is so similar in essence to what you have written today. I loved it and it has got me thinking about the meaning of life and happiness.

  16. So beautiful, Heather. The puppers look divinely happy & calm. See? It just all worked out, didn't it?
    love you....

  17. Such a beautiful post... I hope the bluebird rests on your shoulder today, if only for an instant. xo

  18. I love this post!! Yes, it's everything I believe, too - thank you for sharing those quotes and poems, which compliment your words and photos so well. My spring is full of things growing - I hope they end up to be good! And your one line, "and that they are not passing at such speed that you don't see them", reminded me of some lines from the song I wrote for Dad - "Slow Down". "Oh I know you too well, I knew you'd say there aren't roses to smell; life whizzes by, gardens fly past; a rose is not a rose when it's going that fast". Here's to stopping to smell - and photograph - them!

  19. Look all of these really lovely and gracious comments! Looking back, I wonder WHAT was going on with me at the time that I didn't respond properly...just putting a very belated "I'm sorry" out there into the cyber universe...


Your responses are what makes this blog so special to me. I love hearing from you. Thank you for visiting!

* Comments left on posts two days after publication or more will be published after moderation. So not to worry, they will arrive and again, I appreciate them all so very much...Merci! *

If you prefer, feel free to email me directly at robinsonheather (at)