The Shape of Ordinary Happiness

There is joy in light and form of everyday things if we learn to see it
There is joy in light and form of everyday things if we learn to see it

Ann nudged me on the plane coming into O’hare, handing me the Wall Street Journal she’d picked up. “Read this” she said, knowing I’d resonate with the theme of Willard Spiegelman’s new book, Seven Pleasures: Essays On Ordinary Happiness. The review by Wes Davis tells us…

The author’s aim is to show that “an intelligent thoughtful happiness is possible.”

“He looks at everything around him with a careful reader’s interpretive style of perception, and he carries a reader’s bundle of vicarious memories into every experience, likening what he sees to scenes from books he has read.

…To the extent that he has a secret to happiness, it resides in slowing down enough to pay attention to what you might call the grammar of experience. When you take the time to examine the world around you, parsing what you see, hear and feel, Mr. Spiegelman likens the approach to the parsing of a sentence in Latin class, you find that the plainest occurrence is surprisingly rich.”

My sentences come from nature and from the sensations and experience remembered through my photographs rather than from scenes or characters in books. I haven’t set out to isolate the pursuit of this kind of pleasure overtly but rather to let it seep into the natural history and simple stories of the not-so-simple rural life we live here. Even so, my claim is the same–that, as I said in the author’s note to Slow Road Home:

“There are wonders all around. From our everyday lives, these familiar things may seem unremarkable to us. But in these precious instants in time, if we keep our eyes open and our hearts ready to know it, there is nothing ordinary.”

I think that same sense of celebration in the small and close at hand, the joy we might find in the unadorned and quiet moments of our own present places and times will become evident as you finish reading What We Hold In Our Hands: a Slow Road Reader. At least that is my hope.

Books arrive tomorrow. (I got a single copy of it yesterday!) I look forward to knowing that its message will reach some of you–both physically with the book in your hands and with regard to the mild bump in “ordinary happiness” it might nurture in a readers’ life. Life is short; get your copy soon!

Seven Pleasures: Essays on Ordinary Happiness at Amazon

5 thoughts on “The Shape of Ordinary Happiness”

  1. YES, FRED………THIS IS WHY WE TUNE IN EACH DAY TO YOUR WEBSITE………YOU ENABLE US, HELP US, TO SEE THE WORLD, OUR WORLD, YOUR WORLD….ESPECIALLY YOUR WORLD OF EIGHTY ACRES, THERE IN GOOSE CREEK. YOUR WORDS, AND PHOTOS, ENRICH US, AND MAKE US GLAD THAT THIS WHOLE WEBSITE LIVES. EVEN THOUGH WE ALL ARE MILES APART, IT’S LIKE HAVING A CLOSE FRIEND OVER EACH MORNING, FOR A CUP OF COFFEE…….

    SEE YA……..
    MARK

  2. Fred, I sure do agree with Marks comments…. when the things or even the people in our lives are so “in your face”, you only need to open your webpage, or one of your books, and these “things, and people, take on a completely different perspective.

    on Bent Mountain, have multiple Labrador Retrievers, and love everything this rural life has to offer, (maybe except for the hundreds of mice, and the ferocious animals that get into the big garden)!

    Looking forward to reading for the next several days, it’s a good time to read, we have fog, cool, and damp weather predicted for the next week!
    Oh, just reminder, this weather is part of the mountain life too!

  3. Just yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking to a World War II Vet from Boise Idaho, We talked about mountains, rivers, and places we have been. I was working in a natural area just east of his property. We both agreed that we live in a great country and were are blessed to live in rural area and that anytime you can be outdoors and not get interrupted by phones and meetings that that is were we belong. As a back country ranger from Yosemite once said, “nature is reality what we live in is unreality.”

    I Enjoy your site Fred and I concur with Mark and Kay your site is like stepping on a front porch and taking in the mountain air, which is a nice respite for a guy from a swamp.

  4. I vicariously enjoy the rural life through you and your writings. Though I live in a city, I am learning to appreciate more the natural things around me, as well as the bountiful moments in my life.

    Thank you for your blog and your books!

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