Is it that time again? Oui! Oui! I am sitting at my favorite coffee shop, a large double Caffè Americano at my elbow, and LED lights strung across my screen in green and red (thanks to hubby). I like to see people smile and kids' eyes brighten when they see the lights. One kid stares, his head rotating almost completely around like an owl's while his mother drags him through the shop. Another woman smiles and whispers, “Love your lights!”
A gentlemen goes humming by and sits at the table next to me. He is so loud! But he sounds happy. Is that what happiness is? Doing what you want without concern for others? I guess we can only be happy some of the time, then, because that life philosophy won't last for long in most social groups. I think of telling him to shush, but that would not make me happy. I wouldn't want to be shushed. I decide I would be happier if I listened in on his conversation with the woman who shares his table. They speak loudly of the theater. He is putting on a production of Beauty and the Beast, and he is concerned that there are too many people signed up for auditions. The woman points out that this is a nice problem to have. He says he doesn't want to disappoint those who don't get a part. And there will be many disappointments. More than last time. So perhaps he is not so happy after all. Theater people! Reminds me of my days in school and community theater productions. Such drama!
Ostensibly, I am here writing as I do most Sundays and Wednesdays after enjoying breakfast with Dave. The coffee shop acts as a second office for me, but it also grants me bits of attention from the shop's staff and some of the other regulars. That makes me happy. And I often do get a lot of work done here, and that makes me happy, too. And in doing so, I am not thinking of others. Hmm. But I also don't think my tapping at a keyboard is bothering anyone. My LED lights might be bothering someone, I suppose. But as Jack Kornfield the popular American Buddhist might say, are the lights bothering them, or are they bothering the lights? Most people are talking to each other or looking at and listening to their devices anyway. I think I have, if not the moral high ground, then at least the high plateau leading up to it. My thesis is that one can be happy without disturbing others. Look for the book on that soon.
This season, I organized a group to do caroling as usual through the neighborhood. I had thought about not bothering this year. I was busy, I was tired. But marching through the snow with kids of all ages and ringing doorbells and singing, sometimes with harmony if Darcy or the Brothers are there, makes me happy. It was just about freezing, and there was only a little ice left on the streets from our last snow fall/melt/freeze cycle, so we had a fairly comfortable time of it. We attracted a group of about twelve people, including some folks from Columbia who were visiting. It was fun having them request some of their favorite carols, including “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” As usual, after an hour and a half or so we were back at our house for Hot Chocolate to Die for, mulled wine, homemade chocolate chip cookies, and a warm fire. Otherwise, Dave and I had a quiet holiday. He whipped up BBQ ribs paired with Ravenswood Zinfandel, and we enjoyed an Indiana Jones movie marathon. Happiness Quotient = HIGH. (and NO ONE ELSE DISTURBED.) After the holidays, I made some more Japanese water and ink prints (suminagashi). One print is pictured at the top of this post. I use these prints to make cards and send them out to folks sometime in the winter instead of doing holiday cards.
In other news, I started a new website this year at ellenwilkin.com. I have set myself the goal to post a new blog entry every week. I have been doing pretty well, although my rate of posting dropped to every week and a half, then over the holidays, every two weeks. Yikes! But it has been good for me to have regular deadlines as I march on with my time-travel novel, Saving Eleanor. (That project continues as I develop the middle of the story. I know where I want to end, but the details of getting there still aren't obvious. I won't know the answer until I have covered the ground, looked back, and then realized that I should have taken a different route. My office rug has deep grooves where I have covered the same ground time and time again. I suppose this happens with first novels, especially ones with five major characters and two time lines: the twelfth century and the near future. I am mostly happy about this. :) )
The blog series I am writing now is a travelogue about my train trip across Europe doing research on Eleanor of Aquitaine's life. Again, writing this blog makes me mostly happy. As I collect my old journal entries and begin to piece together a cohesive narrative, I remind myself of what it was like to travel alone in a foreign country and what I found there. As I do research to fill in the gaps in my knowledge and memory, I learn more about the places I visited. For example, I just published an entry about my exploration of a medieval castle in the making, Guédelon, which is in the middle of a forest in Burgundy, France. I have learned more about how the project came to be as well as details about stone quarrying, stone-cutting, mortar making, tile making, and rope making than I did when there. (I visited during the off season, so there were no English-speaking guides. All the workers and doyens spoke French. The rope-making guy spoke very animated French and told jokes, but I didn't understand most of it. But now I know a bit more about what was happening around me. And I am refreshing my tiny bit of French. Oui! Oui!) But putting together the blog is more work than I expected. Writing seems to be just that: more work than you expect, but more rewarding than you can imagine.
To acknowledge the elephant in the room: This has been a strange year, and the next one perhaps more so. And there will be many disappointments. More than last time. But working our way through this year and the next does lead us to the next chapter. That's better than standing still. There have been political challenges: Globally, nationally, and locally. And sometimes it has even become personal. But we can remain calm, peaceful, and resilient. We can have a positive influence in our communities if we continue to keep the communication lines open. There is happiness to be had, if we can allow it. So I want to encourage everyone out there on the other side of this screen or piece of paper to keep talking and listening no matter what. Don't shut down. We need each other so much. I certainly need all of you.
Dave and I wish the best to you and your family and friends in 2017!