It is no coincidence my wanting to write about the last of Tolkien’s 6 Keys of Happiness (as defined in this text) today. Yesterday I spent the day mentally, and materially, preparing for yet another upcoming transition. This time I cleaned out the several bags I’ve been storing in my car all these months in preparation for Phase 2 of The Lis Experiment.
It was a big day.
It made all the other days I wanted to write to you about feel small, actually,
It was a day that made my return to the Pacific Northwest earlier this March seem almost insignificant. The strong emotions from that day, and the days which have followed, were so easy for me to access before yesterday’s car clearing.
I will try to bring them back as I type to you now.
The day I returned to Oregon, I drove from Oakland to Klamath Falls. It just so happens that earlier this Summer, on the road trip from White Salmon to Los Angeles, I stayed in Klamath Falls. I checked into the same motel, and settled in for a cozy night.
The next day was my birthday, and I awoke to snow and cold, but I also awoke to the comforts of being back in a quaint place.
That morning I walked the familiar street to a coffee shop about a block away. I ordered a delicious coffee and breakfast, and when I was told the total was $4.50, I almost sobbed with joy! A cup of organic, fairtrade, freshly roasted coffee plus a huge bowl of healthy, breakfast goodness for under $5? It’s been too long PNW… too long.
After breakfast I walked back to the motel, and as I walked, I soaked up the beauty surrounding this small town; a place most people I know back East have never heard of. I also soaked up the idea that a small town could eat well and provide quality coffee for a fair price… just sayin.
My pleasant return to the Pacific Northwest was magnified by my coming to Bend. Upon my arrival the homeowners offered to take me out to dinner for my birthday! I also ran an errand to the local Chase Bank where the business banker was genuinely kind to me (not the case in bigger cities, at least for me). Best of all I got to meet Lily who would be my roommate for the next few weeks, and she was super nice too!
The awesomeness and kindness I felt then was just day 1. The days which have followed have pulled me even further back into the comfort of a PNW life. There is beauty everywhere I go.
There are funky buildings which remind me of my small town roots:
There is art everywhere:
Bend is a small, but an incredibly walkable city. (despite the off-season snow you see in the pictures!) I’ve walked to lectures at the library and meditations at a local environmental center. I’ve strolled to dinner with friends downtown, and walked my way to happy hour at the coffee shop.
There is also an entire project here in Bend aimed at bringing more kindness and joy into the lives of its citizens:
All of these happenings were overshadowed, however, by my cleaning out process. As I write this now, I can see part of that cleaning out feels like I’m leaving the PNW, a place where I’m completely safe and secure and happy, for good.
Part of getting rid of the last of my material things also feels like I’m being ungrateful for the life I’ve built over the past 20 of my years. It feels like I’m saying “Meh… nevermind”, to who I’ve been.
I’ll be honest, I’m tearing up as I connect with these realizations now.
Not only does it feel like throwing a life away, but it’s also the not knowing what life you’re going to get in return. I’m scared, excited, heart-broken, and yet… I’m free.
Somehow, this all comes back to Rediscovering Wonder. In fact, I believe going through this process of clearing and cleaning one’s life, but also noticing the differences in that life along the way, is what the authors, and Tolkien himself, mean by the term. I also believe its a key part of the path to happiness.
The authors point out that “one of the happiest characters in The Lord of the Rings is undoubtedly Tom Bombadil”. His happiness, they claim, is due to his “renouncing all control” and his “taking delight in things for himself”.
They point out how Tolkien’s elves are creatures who never tire from the pleasure they derive from the simplest of things: “poetry, songs, gazing at the stars and sunlit forests”.
They also describe a sort of sensory awakening Frodo (and others) has along his journey. In one such example he touches a tree’s bark, and for the first time really feels what it is, a living being. From this he feels a deep sense of wonder and delight.
The authors then tell us that Tolkien defined this “regaining of vision through the clearing of the soul”, Recovery. They describe this process as “regaining a ‘clear view’, cleaning our windows so to speak”. They explain that it is this process which allows us to Rediscover Wonder in the simplest aspects of life, and of course by rediscovering this wonder, and connecting to ourselves and the world around us, we find happiness.
I can see clearly (pun kinda intended) now that this Rediscovering Wonder process is the one I’m on. I see clearing out physical, mental, and emotional energy is necessary to view and cherish the beauty of a small town or a side road or a person who just wants to take you out to dinner to celebrate you. I see how much these moments fill my cup instead of drain it.
I also see how no part of the process is more important than the other. The process IS the journey IS the destination. The world, and we as creatures in it, is constantly changing, but if we can see wonder in the simple things, we can bring happiness and fulfillment to any life experience.
Lastly, I see that we Rediscover this Wonder, not only by clearing the windows, but also by looking through them intently and seeing with a true eye what we’ve cultivated.
Finally I see that having the courage to clear all that we’ve cultivated away and starting from scratch again and again is one big step necessary to the whole damn process.
So… I’m not ungrateful, I’m courageous!
Yeah… I’ll just keep telling myself that.