Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Happiness According to Hawthorne

"Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued is just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may light upon you."
~ Nathaniel Hawthorne


I used to sit so still. The birds would forget I was there, and come back to their nests. I used to be so patient and quiet, I would sneak up on rabbits, and stand two feet away from them, just amazed to be so close to their soft fur and wild little hearts. I would sit for hours watching the ants go by with little bits of food and twig.

Back last July, I went to Glacier National Park. I was alone one morning, and I walked up to a hill over-looking a lake. And I sat and just... breathed. And it felt like my soul grew, swelled, pushed beyond my skin. That it spread and billowed out around me. That I could feel the breeze stirred by the hawk's wing high in the sky, feel the tickle of the ants underground. The water of the lake was cold and clear as my soul fell through it like the sunbeams that turned it to jade. All as I sat still, and let myself be, and let the world be around me. And through me. And in me.

But as far as happiness goes, I'm not so patient any more. Maybe it's easier to be patient in Glacier. Or the hills I grew up in. Right now, in this city, my soul is no bigger than my apartment. Is rarely bigger than my skin. For a little while I found someone I could touch, and like a new plant that unfolds and shakes off the seed husk as it lifts its head, my soul opened like that, even here. Even here. And I believed all things.

It's true, and I never thought of it. This feeling only comes to me in the still small voice that you can't hear if you're running. Does it come to me, or is it the seed that lies within me, just waiting for me to stop and breathe deeply, and give it time to grow without jarring it against my corporeal insides?

I'm not a patient person. When I have a problem, I want to *fix* it. By *doing* something. I know I can't fix this problem on my own. And I've done damage to myself by trying to fix it by... well... trying.

I won't go all English major and do an analysis of Hawthorne's use of the butterfly (it appears in one of the works that depressed me quite a bit). For now I will only keep this quote in my heart and think on it a while.

Hah! I feel like I've promised not to look, and I've held out my hand.

It's so hard not to peek!

1 comment:

Serena said...

How funny. In high school I wrote a poem (one of many bad high school poems) comparing happiness to a butterfly. I had never read your quote before today.