Happy Days!

This evening at the cocktail hour on the heels of what can only be described as a thoroughly pleasant Saturday we raised our glasses to one another and chimed “Happy Days!”

There are several stock ways to describe the Happy Days of one’s life: the halcyon days, the salad days, the heyday, the days of wine and roses.  The expressions are variously interpreted:

Generally a period of happiness and prosperity;

“Heyday” the time when someone or something is most successful, popular, etc.; archaic: used to express elation or wonder;

“Halcyon” from Latin Alcyone, daughter of Aeolus and wife of Ceyx. When her husband died in a shipwreck, Alcyone threw herself into the sea whereupon the gods transformed them both into halcyon birds (kingfishers). When Alcyone made her nest on the beach, waves threatened to destroy it. Aeolus restrained his winds and kept them calm during seven days in each year, so she could lay her eggs. These became known as the “halcyon days,” when storms do not occur;

“Salad days” is a Shakespearean idiomatic expression to refer to a youthful time, accompanied by the inexperience, enthusiasm, idealism, innocence, or indiscretion that one associates with a young person. The phrase was coined in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra in 1606. In the speech at the end of Act One in which Cleopatra is regretting her youthful dalliances with Julius Caesar she says: “My salad days, / When I was green in judgment, cold in blood”. Queen Elizabeth II during her Silver Jubilee Loyal Address, referring to her vow to God and her people when she made her 21st birthday broadcast: “Although that vow was made in my salad days, when I was green in judgement, I do not regret nor retract one word of it.” In Modest Mouse’s song “Guilty Cocker Spaniels”, Isaac Brock sings this: “Salad days add up to daily shit”.

The Happy Days are not limited to youth and inexperience. Indeed there is a convincing case to be made in favour of age and experience. I won’t suggest that one trumps the other.  The Happy Days are a product of many influences, not the least of which is peace of mind. Certainly the material pleasures of life are not to be diminished but I maintain that without inner satisfaction the external indicia will be forever lacking.  Harnessing that desirable resource has been a subject of endless enquiry; and while what I am about to relate may border on my own prescription for “inner peace” my objective is narrative only. The truth is that I haven’t a clue about the path to inner peace; what I do know however is when I have arrived there.  This is really no less simple and awesome than a sunny day under a blue sky.  Who can pretend to explain its classic splendour?  Yet we know when we are moved by it.

Take today for example. I began the day (coincidentally a beautiful sunny day under a blue sky) shrouded by disquiet. I was battling two opposing forces; viz., perfection and imperfection. This I know is a broad stroke of what might appear perhaps a bit hysterical. Be that as it may, I don’t think it matters. What causes discord in each of us is always unique and none of it necessarily affects others as it affects oneself. What does matter about the malaise is releasing oneself from it.  As axiomatic as that may sound it nonetheless underscores the significance of having the goal to be happy.  It is a given that all of us have problems.  What however is not so clear is whether all of us would like to solve those problems or are we rather content to “enjoy poor health”, to relish our misery?  I say this because the unvarnished truth is that there are some problems that cannot be overcome.  As a result it is only one’s attitude to the problem that counts for anything or that has any hope of approaching something in the nature of a resolution of the problem. If on the other hand one feels strapped to the railway track in the face of the oncoming train then one may as well give up hope now. The answer is not heroics; it may for example involve the portrait of the barreling train (which is after all a serious component of the metaphorical problem).  It is quite possible that that train (as menacing as it may appear) is not as powerful and threatening as it is made out to be.  Many of us fail to seek the most preliminary information about our dilemma – not what is the answer but what is the question?  How we formulate the problem we seek to resolve has much to do with the nature and strength of the problem itself.  And very often upon examination the question is needlessly absurd and therefore negligible.

Leaving aside for the moment that haunting conundrum, permit me to share with you the subsequent events of the day by way of introduction to the ultimate unwinding.  We had resolved several days ago to attend the Golf Club this morning for breakfast.  It was of course one of the first days that the Club was in full swing.  We were not in the least disappointed with our reiteration of this weekend pilgrimage. Granted the best sauce for any meal is an appetite, and in this instance there was enough of that preprandial spirit to spare. It no doubt also helped that we hadn’t had for some time a hearty breakfast of bacon, sausage and eggs. Sufficient it is to observe that we spoke but little following the arrival of our plates of food.  Already the view of the sun and sky over the first tee was beginning to imbue a hitherto unappreciated toxic effect. And my previously tainted thoughts, though they persisted, were correspondingly tempered. Once a thought has got hold like a mussel upon a sea wall there is little that can dislodge it.  Nothing short of prying oneself free of it works. This however required more time.

Compounding my discord today was a further concern which involved of all things a meeting with a friend to look at my bicycle.  It would be embarrassing to reveal the root of this dissonance as it was so perfectly trivial!  But its weight added to the burden already being shouldered and peevishly magnified its influence. This particular matter dissipated upon its fulfillment, a case of fear out-performing the cause.  Nonetheless its relieving effect was instantaneous.

What then followed was a strengthening and invigorating bicycle ride down Country Street, along Rae Road, onto the Eighth Concession and back home, in all about ten kilometres.  My enthusiasm was fuelled by the delight of a newly installed gear cluster which not only removed the issue that previously existed but also improved the capacity of the bike.  We flew alongside the bucolic fields into the warm Springtime breeze of the early afternoon.  And we chatted cryptically as we rode, exchanging summary blurts about inner contemplations and opinions charged with dense import in a manner which only old friends can share so candidly. The extent of my contaminating inner turmoil rolled back incrementally.

Our final sortie of the day was the exercise of filial duty.  The get-together was uncharacteristically free of strife. As we drove home together from the City we rejoiced in our fortune.  It was somewhere along that ribbon of road as we headed westward into the sun that my silly preoccupations dissolved. I abandoned the aspiration for perfection and chose instead to accommodate my once niggling imperfection. To do otherwise was as preposterous as ignoring the blissful sunshine and the blue sky! Happy Days!