I’ve felt happy again. Often. Dancing to Louis Armstrong’s “Cool Yule,” even feeling self-conscious wondering if Ted or Frank happened to see me through the kitchen window. Stepping outside the gate to get the Sunday paper, I close the gate behind me and just stand there looking at our mountains. I study the rooflines of the new houses being built on the other side of our little road and think even their looming presence can’t bury the glory of our mountain view. My joy ignites watching the house finches in the tray feeder, quiet, stolen moments while the mourning doves are away. I get happy over small things. Grinning in the bathroom mirror after a shower, wrapped in warm, clean clothes against the cold, patting my fat belly with something akin to affection. I almost giggle with glee when I climb into bed to eat my mushroom, kale, potato soup and watch re-runs of Parenthood, cozy on a winter night. Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.
This is the note I wrote to go out with my Christmas cards this year. They have a colorful tree and the words “What a wonderful world” on the front of the card. I thought I’d like to share it here with all of the rest of you, too. Happy new era. Happy holidays.
I first reached for this card because I liked the cool, artsy tree, the newsprint and paint. Texture and color pull me. The words on the cover conjure Louis Armstrong.
“I see friends shaking hands,” he sings in his rich, unmistakeable voice, “saying how do you do. They’re really saying, I love you.” The song was released the year before Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed. But you can hear the love in Armstrong’s voice. He was courageous enough, large enough, to believe in us, in spite of all evidence to the contrary. So when the phrase makes me pause, makes me wonder if it’s okay to choose this card given all the violence, all the hate, all the tragedy in our world, I can’t help but think there’s something wrong with that, something wrong that I should hesitate. These things don’t make the words untrue, do they? It is a world full of wonder—big sky, palo verde trees, grackles, people helping. It’s the world my father saw, the small wonders, a person’s profile in that gnarl of tide-washed wood, the magic bean sprouts he brought for my dog Sanji when she was dying, the label he made on his old manual typewriter still taped to the jar, crisp in memory, a cherished item when he died just weeks after she did. It makes me want to cry for him, for both of them gone now these 27 years. But it’s layered in me, the way they loved me, the way I’ll love them always. They are composted in me, rich, fertile soil, my carpet, my gifts, my wonder. And this is the time to look to those we love today, remember they are our diamonds, our emeralds, to run our fingers through them, these gemstones of ours, to spread them out in the morning sunlight or kiss the fire of their facets in the shining of the moon. Bring warm scarves, bundle them forward in the quiet almost-winter afternoon, count ourselves lucky. What a wonderful world.