happiness is bite-sized
{Photo by Reelika Raspel for Scopio; happiness is bite-sized}

Today I played Kate Rusby’s ‘Hourglass’ and was transported to years living in St. Andrews, Scotland at the close of the millennium. Those two years were seriously hard—not least because I was often ill. But the sad songs on that album ring gladness for me. A fiddle-pipe duet on ‘Annan Waters’ sends shivers, it’s so beautiful—even if the tune, like most English folk songs, is tragic, narrating the story of a woman who drowns, never again to see her love.

Discovering Rusby was a joy of that time, a period redeemed by hundreds of diminutive joys. Small joys being the most common form redemption takes. 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 cress I was especially fond of. Some days I’d top it off with a treat from the gorgeous array at Fisher and Donaldson—rhubarb tarts; creme puffs; strawberry danishes. 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, we trolled a tiny stretch of beach beside the castle ruins for sea glass and rounded bits of blue and white pottery I still have.

happiness is bite-sized
{Photo by Lorenzo Capunata by Scopio; happiness is bite-sized}

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 tawny tableaus inside neighbors’ windows, 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, and hugging my husband.

Happiness 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.

“By night you are a gloomy river,

But over you I’ll build a bridge

That never more true love can sever.

Never more and never more.”

{From Kate Rusby, ‘Annan Waters’}

Wren, winner of a 2022 Independent Publishers Award Bronze Medal

Winner of the 2022 Independent Publisher Awards Bronze Medal for Regional Fiction; Finalist for the 2022 National Indie Excellence Awards. (2021) Paperback publication of Wren a novel. “Insightful novel tackles questions of parenthood, marriage, and friendship with finesse and empathy … with striking descriptions of Oregon topography.” —Kirkus Reviews (2018) Audiobook publication of Wren.