On the Road Again

And my Pre-Travel Clean Up Mania seems to have drifted into the garden. Maybe it is the summer version of this affliction? I'm leaving for a week in Maine, stopping at various bookstores and gathering places, and visiting with one of my favorite English majors, Judith Daniels. I love road trips: none of the anxiety of plane and train schedules, and I can pack extravagantly because the car has never established baggage restrictions. I took a look around my home, after we finally got some rain, and thought, if I let this garden go one more week, I'll need a machete to get back in. So after a quick sweep through the house with the broom, I headed into the garden.

I began deadheading, and weeding, and pruning. I was stunned to realize exactly how far things had gone, while I was in my heat wave torpor. The detritus piled up; I carried it out of the garden in a straw basket, and piled it into the wheelbarrow for a run to the compost heap. One must be ruthless, I kept saying to myself, as I took the sheers to the roses. The teasel that had looked so charming in its infancy was now a looming menace, covered with thorns, very goth. I realized I hadn't spent much time sitting on my bench because I was too afraid to brush past the teasel to get there; I was avoiding the neighborhood. Whack. Out you go! Sweat was pouring from me, of course; another heat wave. This is the way summer is going to be, from now on--I kept repeating that, too--and then suddenly realized: if we're lucky, and it doesn't get worse.

Then I thought about the wonderful conversation I had had in Bristol, at Sue Woodman's charming A Novel Idea Booksellers. A gentleman named Clyde asked me what was the difference between joy and happiness? Why did I say I had found happiness, in the subtitle of Slow Love, and not joy? I didn't have an easy, or quick, answer, and I fumbled and rambled. But as I was clipping, I thought, joy seems to come in bursts, happiness is more like groundwork? A good question, and I was grateful to him for giving me something like this to think about. So I pass that gift of a question on to you.

And I thought about Christine, recently moved to Rhode Island from Kansas, and how I had just assumed she was an artist when I met her, and said so--and she was startled, as she is a businesswoman; she had let go of her painting long ago. She had just started thinking about returning to it. Good luck! We too often let go of our early dreams, and forget what it was exactly we yearned to do, and when we recognize those dreams again, whether deliberately or by accident, we are suffused with a feeling of old, familiar, love, and it is wonderful. Joyful.

And then I took a page from pen pal Jeff, and gave into the heat; I simply relaxed, and enjoyed the primal feel of the body in motion: muscles tensing and stretching, fingers responding to brain signals, perspiration cleansing through the whole system. The garden began to look the way a poodle looks after its summer cut. It will benefit from the air circulation. I will benefit from the sweat circulation. When my wheelbarrow was brimming I stopped a few moments and admired my accomplishment. A full wheelbarrow is a very satisfying thing. I leaned on my shovel, and felt...happy.


Ashling said...

A favorite bumpersticker of mine says 'Don't Postpone Joy'. Perhaps what I love most about reading your blog is that the joy does shine through...not just the 'happiness', but the joy as well. In a nutshell, my own answer as to 'what is happiness' vs 'what is joy' wouldn't be all that dissimilar from yours. Happiness feels like a state of being, it's a resting place, the table on which we lay the things that give us comfort and ease and pleasure. Joy becomes the exclamation point, the bursting forth, the 'climax' to that happiness state of being; joy is the gorgeous, vibrant plant on that table....it's intensely alive, fills your being, and rocks your core.
In my own humble opinion and experience, of course. Thank YOU for that gift of a question...

edi gardner said...

Sorry I missed you at the Novel Idea.
Frolic away in Maine!

William said...


Nice post.

One small point. Business is just as much an art as painting. :)

pve design said...

One of my favorite quotes;
"Let your soul stand ajar, always ready to welcome the ecstatic experience." Emily Dickinson

I think happy and joy can both be ecstatic experiences. I love your happy, joyful wheelbarrow!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

To me, joy is the loam from which happiness blooms. Joy is deeper, quieter, more constant. It's not as showy as happiness, which tends to flower here and there in a more mercurial fashion. Joy remains, even when I'm a bit unhappy.


Happiness & joy. I think the first comment has it right. But I will think about it when I'm out gardening, which I love, where one has time to really reflect. It's also so so hot in Texas. xx's

Michael said...

I wonder if 'joy' comes in the immediacy of a particular experience; while 'happiness' is the fabric that is woven by repeatedly having such experiences. A little too pat perhaps, but joy = slow love moment = mindfulness of something dazzling. Happiness is the long term change in attitude that comes from being lucky enough / mindful enough to have such moments.

Thanks for your visit to Bristol! I'm glad I caught the last half of it.

Clare said...

good hark physical work always leaves me feeling happy....and sore! I find ways to put it off, but when it's done I am always glad to have done it.

Väva! Veve! said...

This needed a trip to the beloved dictionary!

Joy is defined with words such as 'delight', 'gaiety' and 'bliss'.

Happiness is defined with phrases like, 'a pleasurable or satisfying experience', 'a state of well-being and contentment', 'prosperity'.

The impression I am given from the dictionary is that joy is a more intense experience that is momentary. A bit challenging to maintain that level of feeling. Whereas happiness is a state of being. It is more of a generalized attitude.

But then, the dictionary also uses one word to describe the other. . . hmmm-m-m-m.

Eva Gallant said...

I just saw you on 207 and decided to pay you a visit. Congratulations on completing your book! I wish you lots and lots of sales.
Hope you'll drop by my blog and say hi when you have time!

Jacqueline said...

I LOVE roadtrips! The freedom...left, right, stop, stay.
I don't know how to define the difference between happiness and joy, but I know I choose joy every time.
Happiness seems pedestrian, expected.
Joy is individual, exquisite.
I wish you JOY.

Anonymous said...

In my sixty four years, I have learned that JOY is bestowed by others and HAPPINESS is learned, earned, and enjoyed. You are a JOY for so many. My thanks for your blog and your books. M.

Tpony said...

I spent a day this weekend trimming wildly as well....and as I am always reluctant to even cut flowers, it took a force of will to clean and glean. Yet, when finished, I was able to appreciate how necessary and pleasing the effect. Hidden hostas gained center stage and I do believe I heard sighs of relief from overburdened, more modest plants formerly elbowed out by the coneflowers and amazonian hydrangeas. Discipline, in the garden, as in life (now and then) is beneficient, but not always easily assumed.

However, what I most want to add to the forum if I may, is encouragement to all who can, to visit asap, (if only because I know how much many of you will love it)the Hillstead Museum and Garden in Farmington, CT. www.hillstead.org.

The website I dare say, doesn't begin to suggest how fulsome is the collection; and all paintings practically in-situ!(allowing for a bit of license with the term.)

The sunken garden (Beatrix Ferrand, designer,) recreated as originally intended.

I've lived most of my like in CT and only now have discovered this place of repose....and probably, only now, can slow-love it appropriately. Sundays host a local farmers' market! If you love Degas, Whistler, Manet and Monet, you will simply glide through this place in a state of euphoria. To get Impressionists, Chinese porcelains, perennials and chubby grazing sheep, all in one afternoon is, to my mind, Joy and Happiness in abundance! And did I mention the happy trails for wandering? Bring a book, and easel, a picnic and/or a pal!

flwrjane said...

So happy to have found your blog. I was a devoted reader of your editor's column and have loved your books.

I was once accused of reading for an amotional jolt. I stand accused and thank you for always delivering one.

Thea said...

a funny thing happened to me. I made the mistake of entering my three year project of a courtyard garden into a garden of the year award sponsored by my garden club. My only problem is I also got a job as a census lady which requires an intense amount of hours for a short period of time. So my garden beds were a riotously lovely mess of perennial blooms AND wild strawberries and violets. So I asked the contest coordinator to put my garden last on the judge's tour, to give me a desperate few extra days to clean out. So what happens? My house is the first garden on the tour that morning and they entered my gate as my darling nephew was delivering mulch to my house. OH WELL! But the judges 'got' my idea, if not my execution! lol anyway, a few weeks later, the judges came back on their own to do some photos for a book they're creating for gardening solutions - they love our garden's lighting solutions. All i can say is, live and learn! p.s. I did get it all cleaned up and looking spiffy BUT it was more than a wheelbarrow full!!

DC by Design said...

I hope you had fun with Judy Daniels! Like Judy, I went to Smith College, and have gotten to know her through our mutual involvement with the Smith Alumnae Quarterly. Small world indeed. I'm writing my blog post on your talk from last week -- will send a link when it's up. Have a great time in Maine.

Jennifer Sergent