Happiness is always here and now (words on a poster)
I woke up yesterday morning with my gypsy-traveling-feet ready to set off on some new adventure. It’s no surprise that I had distant destinations on my mind and in my feet. During the empty-nest years of this past decade, after our grown-up boys have flown back to their grown-up homes and the Christmas ornaments have been stuffed into their tissue-lined boxes, Cam and I have packed up our bags and set sail for far-off lands. We’ve flown into Paris on New Year’s Eve, landing in time to take the train into the city center as the sun was sinking down behind the Paris-golden buildings and the evening was lighting up with a boldness more brilliant than any wintertime day. That year, we stood on the Bridge Pont Alexandre III looking down at the River Seine and across at the Eiffle Tower; we stood there, wobbly-legged and jet-lagged, jammed into the crowds of revelers, surrounded by whoops and cheers and sparkling hats; we stood there as the crowds, in a sea of different languages, began to count down, “Dix, neuf, huit . . .”, stood there as that tower, the one we all have known since we were little kids, lit up at the strike of midnight the way that it does in the movies. And what could be better than that?!?
But there were other adventures, too. There was the time that we celebrated the coming of the new year in the African country of Morocco, in the seaside town of Essaouira, with its working harbor and its walled-in medina, with the call to prayer and the seagulls flying, with a meal on New Year’s Eve at our small newly-renovated ancient hotel/traditional home that tantalized our senses and sent us into a tasting tizzy. It was hours and hours of eating and music and traditional dance. It was organic cheeses and so many salads and spicy casseroles and stews served in clay pots. It was salt-encrusted fish, huge fish caught in the sea right off this Atlantic shore. It was goat for the meat-lovers and lentils for all. It was cakes and candies and date-filled pastries. It was wonderful and this wonderful has stayed with me. As has the wonderful in another walled-in city, a city whose walls have tumbled down. And that’s what I remember most about wintertime in Berlin, how friendly and artsy and easy it was, walking its streets from west to east and east back to west, how the wall that I remember from childhood news’ briefs was nowhere in sight and there was a creative thrumming aliveness in the air, a forward-focused thrust into the modern and a repairing of what has been broken in the past. I loved Berlin. And I loved Barcelona, too. How could you not love Barcelona? It is a fairy tale of what is possible when you dream dreams that are outside of the box and build houses whose shapes in no way look like boxes. It is colorful and it is musical and it is the smell of the sea and it is tapas that set your tastebuds flying — in every season, it is these things. And how special it is to be there at the start of the new year, at their celebration of Epiphany, to be pushed forward by the crowds into the front row on a main cobbled street on a brisk winter evening as the parade of floats sails by, to cheer with the cheering crowds as the Three Wise Men in their glittering ship-on-wheels, whizz past, to catch the candy and the excitement and the magic floating through the air, to wave a hearty wave with hands wrapped in mittens. We have done that, Cam and I. And it is in us still. And it is wonderful.
And now we’re home. And we will be home for the calling in of this new year. It’s not like there won’t be more trips in our near future. I tell this to my dancing-gypsy feet. Just settle down, I say to them. You have plane tickets booked and adventures planned. Just not right now.
You see, our empty nest is not empty in this moment and our home is feeling rather adventurous in its own right. Our son Pete is here, a professor now who has a more spacious vacation time, and our daughter-in-law and our one-and-a-half-year-old grandson, Viren. And with Viren, it’s all an adventure. We creep up the stairs with our index fingers pressed to our mouths in “shoosh” position; quietly we sneak into our Grandma-and-Grandpa-bedroom, Viren and Grandpa and I, and then we see her, our fluffy white cat, curled up on the extra blanket at the foot of the bed, peacefully snoozing, and we — we being Viren — we hold it in, the “shoosh”, the creeping motion, until we lean right into her sweet closed-eyed face and then it bursts out, in a hollering boisterous, “Hi!” It’s all like that, everything is new and wonderful and a boisterous “Hi!”, the snow and the snow angel, the two bunnies who hop out from under our backyard deck. “Hop Hop”, Viren calls them. ‘Hop Hop” we all call them now. A trip to Ishpeming’s Globe Printing to pick up flyers for Joy Center, a trip to the post office to mail a package, a trip to our favorite outdoor store or our favorite cafe — this holiday season, it is all exotic, the familiar no longer familiar.
I want to sustain this freshness as I step and hop and toddler-dance my way into this new year. I want to press my face into the face of the present moment and say “Hi!” with the same level of buoyant enthusiasm that delights me in my toddler grandson. I want for it all to seem like a wonderful adventure, the time at home re-discovering the new in what perhaps has seemed commonplace and overlooked. I want to rejoice in and truly appreciate the wide variety of creative offerings that Joy Center presents to us all in the first few months of 2014, to feed my own creative hunger with these offerings, and yes, I want to travel, too, because I love to travel. And in the meantime, I’m reminding my traveling feet that the adventure is right here in the rooms of my home, in my own backyard, in the community that I hold dear.
Happy New Year to you all. May this be the best-feeling year thus far!