Friday, April 02, 2010

Friday Ramble - Happiness

The word happiness goes all the way back to the twelfth century, and it comes to us through the good offices of the Middle English hap meaning "luck or chance", probably related to the Old English gehæp meaning "fitting or convenient". Cognates include hap, happen, happenstance and haphazard, all related to luck, good fortune and destiny, the Old Church Slavic kobŭ meaning "auspices or auspicious" and the Old Irish word cob meaning "victory". Then there is the Old English eadig (from ead meaning "wealth or riches") and gesælig, which has morphed into modern parlance as silly. The Old English bliðe which originally meant happy survives as blithe, another one of my favorite words. Most of the European words now used for happiness and happy once meant fortunate or just plain lucky. A notable exception is Welsh, where the word once meant wise.

Happiness connotes a deep sensation of ease, security and well being, a sense of place and connection to each other: each of us walking, swimming, flying, lurching or hobbling along, or who lacking ambulatory appendages, (legs, feathers or fins) finds a place to stand, puts down deep roots and stands in dignity along this hallowed trail, face and leaves turned toward the sun. True happiness is made of small wonders, and there are enough small wonders on this beautiful earth to fill life right to the brim with happiness if one is thoughtful, patient and a little attentive.

On designated holiday weekends like this one, I think of the Kerr clan being together around the old oak table or curled up near the fireplace afterward with music, books and cups of tea. Our clan is expanding outward year by year to enfold kindred far and near, friends, acquaintances and colleagues, bright spirits and lost spirits encountered along our way. There is room at the hearth for all.

I think too of art, photography and the glorious keyboard creations of Bach and Scarlatti, of walking through the oak woods in autumn and peaceful winter days when one can hear the snow falling among the trees - those glorious winter days really do happen. I think of old log barns and rail fences, kindled hearths and woodsmoke, wild columbines and the whole turning year. All these things spell happiness for me, and they spell family too - this vast living and breathing earthly community of which I am such a small, awkward, fumbling and bewildered element.

This morning, the Manitoba Maple in the garden is a vision of plumed and tasseled springtime splendor, and an Eastern Cottontail visited us after sunrise. What a banquet, what a feast!


Anonymous said...

Oh Cate, this brought tears to my eyes. Such a beautiful description of "happiness". "There is room at the hearth for all"....Yes, and as I redefine my sense of place, family and home, I am slowly awakening to the fact that my place, family and home needs to embrace a larger sphere. Also, my "hearth" is something I can carry with me wherever I am and share with whoever draws close as a kindred spirit.

judy said...

my favourite part is: "face and leaves turned toward the sun"
this is when I love you most.. when you speak my heart language!
'Happy' Good Friday to you.

Anonymous said...

Cate this post began with curiosity and interesting information and then soared into beauty. How wonderful. How happy it made me reading it and smiling.

Blue Sky Dreaming said...

This morning your fine words so beautifully welcomed me back to a place of happiness...."puts down deep roots and stands in dignity along this hallowed trail"...thank you so much.

Lindsay said...

Your blog always is beautiful, but today you have outdone yourself. What a gift.

the wild magnolia said...

These were especially meaningful words moving around the circle of thankfulness in your life.

I loved this.

Blessings this holiday weekend and always.

Sending love, Magnolia