Unable to resist the silence and solitude of our deck tonight, I settled into a chair, kicked off my shoes and put my feet up on the ottoman, the summer breeze cool against my bare legs and arms.
The late-night noise registered in varying depths out of the darkness. The most immediate sound was the water from the sprinkler system, hitting the low-hanging leaves of one of our trees and moving along the fence line like a child running the length with a stick trailing on the rails. Even in our deep suburbia the noise of cars and trucks and planes is never silent, and this was punctuated with small explosions – the rapid-fire rat-a-tat-tat or deep boom of pre-Fourth fireworks.
I could smell the sweetness of the water and the contrasting acrid burning of the spent fireworks. Virginia summer nights are often cloaked in a comforting haze that blots out all but the strongest stars, but nothing could dampen the lights of the fireflies, marking their erratic path through the backyard, first behind this branch, then under that.
I sipped a glass of Cline’s Sonoma Coast Viognier, the balance of fruit and flowers perfect for this summer evening, and I reflected on what happiness is to me, a question that has been weighing heavily on me as I make my way through Ariel Gore’s Bluebird for the second time.
She asks what I would do differently if happiness were my primary goal, my ultimate currency. Having happiness be the goal of the day would cause me to slow down, to savor the moment. Whether that’s enjoying a meal without fear of what it’s doing to my waistline or taking the time to laugh with friends or simply sitting on the deck watching the night – happiness for me is being connected to and invested in what is happening now.
A second question she asks is how much I consider my own happiness when I make important life decisions. Looking back over my life, I can see that an disproportionate number of my decisions have been made based on fear rather than on happiness. On consequence rather than on expectations. On past punishments rather than on future possibilities.
It seems a good night for making promises to the stars, and so I whispered a vow to change this dynamic. To make decisions based on happiness and expectation. After all, what are summer nights for if not for believing that anything is possible?