May be an image of 2 people, people standing and outdoors

Today in my car, I played Kate Rusby’s ‘Hourglass,’ which I hadn’t heard in ages, and was transported to years in St. Andrews, Scotland at the close of the millennium. Those two years were seriously hard—not least of all because I was often ill. But the sad songs on that album ring gladness for me. A fiddle-pipe duet on ‘Annan Waters’ makes me shiver it’s so beautiful—even if the tune, like most English folk songs, is tragic, narrating the story of a woman drown, never again to see her love. Discovering Rusby was a joy of that time, a period redeemed by hundreds of diminutive joys. I remember the day I discovered the CD bin at St. Andrews library and came home with the likes of Rusby and Nancy Griffith. Two of many new friends found within the dark, stony walls of that library. During weeks when I slogged through theology tomes or returned from walking my school-aged daughter home in the downy wet of North Sea winter, many days battling a low-grade depression, their tunes buoyed me, bringing a snippet of happiness. Each day at noon I’d break from the dull work of a research PhD to run down the block for a sandwich. Boots Pharmacy made an egg salad with pickle I was fond of. Many days I’d top it off with a bakery treat from the gorgeous array at Fisher and Donaldson. In the evenings, I found pleasure reading novels as my daughter played beside me, and I read The Brothers Karamazov then immediately returned to page one and started again. Sometimes on weekends, I trolled a tiny stretch of beach beside the castle ruins for sea glass and rounded bits of blue and white pottery. I still have some of those remnants.

 Today, hearing Rusby, I’m reminded how happiness is a cobbling together of fleeting happy moments, when something delights or moves us for a few seconds or a few hours. It is simply that. These days I cobble happiness out of different sets of moments. High on the list is walking through my neighborhood at night and seeing Christmas lights or passing under a large and lively whisp of starlings. But this week it also included passing a corral of donkeys, getting an amusing text from my (now grown) daughter, the zesty scent of fresh-cut orange as I pass through the kitchen, hugging my husband. It even included lifting a dead squirrel from the road where it had been hit, its body still limp and warm, so I could carry it to a more respectful, brushy margin astride the sidewalk, even if I cried for blocks after doing so. Happiness is mixed like that.