Happy Is As Happy Does

Luci celebrates a year on earth by herding Canada Geese and goslings into the Susquehannah River.

I love the end of spring for all its diversity and color.  The urgent heat of day and the refreshing coolness of night.  The purple and blues of lupines, iris, chive and sage; the pinks of roses, peonies, dianthus-ish volunteers; the greens of grass, stalks, stems, leaves and needles–all creating a kaleidoscope effect of daily changing patterns and hues.  Birds provide an evolving instrumental accompaniment of song tones and percussive calls.

This spring my library holds a copy of The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, a book I make sure I read at least once a day.  I have taken quite a few of her suggestions to heart, including the suggestion to create my own happiness project, the only goal of which right now is to be happier more frequently.  Research has shown that what we do frequently has more impact in making us happy than what we do once in a while.  I am paraphrasing here, but that concept struck me as a real Secret of Adulthood.  It really matters that I have a perpetual calendar where I record the high and low temperatures, the colors in the meadow, the moment I hear the first bluebird or robin or oriole.  It makes me happy, a little bit every day.

I have been thinking too that Ms. Rubin’s admonition to be serious about play is seriously appropriate for my serious self.  Hence, my resolution to have an adventure at least once a week…..that adds up to 52 adventures a year.  The anticipation makes me happy! The planning makes me happy! The savoring will make me happy!  And recalling these adventures here, on this storytelling blog, will make me happy!  I have a project!!!! or a little bit of one.

Hence, today’s first adventure: LuciFreckles’ Birthday Walk on the dike of the Susquehanna River in NEPA.  I woke up early to promptly finish morning chores: dogs fed and exercised, trash out, son home on vacation awakened in time for hair appointment.  The heat promised by mid-day appeared to be arriving early.  I packed ice cubes to the top of our water bottles and filled the spaces with fresh water, sorted through containers to find a special “take with you” size, and changed Luci’s clothes, exchanging her invisible fence collar for her training collar.  Leaving the forlorn faces of Cappy and Fly, Luci happily leapt into the way-back of the FIT for the short ride from our Endless Mountain home into the Valley that separates us from the Pocono Plateau.  Through the middle of this valley runs the Susquehanna River, and on the west bank runs a portion of a dike network which presumably protects the nearby residences from flood waters.  The sidewalk atop this dirt mound is our destination.  From here Luci can look right to our low-lying Appalachain foothills and left to the river as we trot south.  We watch swallows perform loop-de-loops and starlings feed their @#$* young.  Song sparrows perform harmony for Red-winged Blackbirds, Canada Geese monitor their goslings’ foraging attempts on the bank playground.  Luci nervously watches bikers, a new sight for her puppyness, and sits politely to let them pass.  She growls a low rumble to alert me to the runner approaching from our left rear.  Other dogs get the “eye”. Head lowered in line with her withers, tail alert straight behind her, Luci sends a silent message to her canine peer: “Be aware.  Be very, very aware.  I can herd YOU!”  And just as they pass, her tail beats a steady “Hello! Come back!  Let me smell you!!!”

It is at this point, one mile out, that Luci seems to feel the heat rising from the macadem, the sun striking us from its climbing position.  The river-driven breeze dies down, and her tongue lolls out, dripping big drops of saliva.  Her brown sable eyes ask “The end now?” and Luci seems only mildly relieved as we head down the bank to the riverside tree-shade.   Gamely she trots on, but without the nose-to-ground of a happy pup.  She is doggedly determined to    just    get    back      .

One final detour as we round the corner to the car park: the beach where Canada Geese sunbathe.  At our approach the honking begins, each adult joining the call to flee.  “To the water, to the water, to the water!”  Goslings waddle to the river edge and quickly slide into what I can now smell–the stinky, brown Susquehanna. An oily residue coats the surface and the fluid teases my thirsty one year old birthday girl instead of offering an early drink.  Barely acknowledging the goslings and assorted adult geese Luci just looks at me in admonishment, “You have clean water in the car!!!!”  As we make the final trek I plot my strategy for teaching Luci and Cappy how to wear a pack.  Next adventure we will carry water and treats WITH us.

Once back at the car Luci and I drank our ice-cold, clean water happily.

“Happy is as happy does.” states the childhood ditty that some adult probably offered to cajole me into doing something I didn’t want to do.  I now add it to my Secrets of Adulthood list.  In spite of the heat, and the left-behind water, the biker who belatedly called “On your left!” and the unwelcome appearance of gnats, I had been happy.  I savored the adventure with my birthday girl, taking time to feel the sun, to identify the bird songs, to smile at my fellow adventurers, and to pet my pup’s silky coat.  Turns out happy is as happy does.

Location, Location, Location

“Location, Location, Location,” coos the realtor.  I can just imagine the avian exchange among the branches of my oak windbreak.

Within ten hours of the Mourning Doves’ successful fledging another pair of Mourning Doves took up residence.  Oooo ah ooooo  ooooo.  The male presents some roots, small and branchy, to his mate.  He flies off with a “wh whh wh wh wh” whir of wings, returning to the conveniently tilled garden below to pick and sort through some more. Meanwhile the female  tucks the gift into the gutter nest, refurbishing the space for her brood to be.

Cautiously I pause before continuing to make my way softly upstairs, collecting details like roots, tucking them into memories for my stories to be.  Great location.

Life in the Gutter

For weeks I took the stairs softly, mindful that a Mourning Dove couple had seen my stairwell’s sheltered gutter as prime nesting real estate.  In amazement I watched the changing of the doves, ensuring that eggs and nestlings always had cover.  In awe I witnessed the chicks’ persistent pecking of the adult beak, and watched it then open and regurgitate dove deliciousness into the gaping baby’s mouth.  The clamoring feathered chicks seemed oblivious to the nest height as they teetered on the gutter edge afterward.

Today’s gutter is empty, the feathered bundles of Mourning Dove fluff are out in the big beyond.  I hear the soft oo oo oo, echoed by a softer, higher, tentative, oo  oo oo.  Parent and child, carefully keeping tabs on one another.  It is a beautiful duet, plaintive, hopeful, loving.

I am here.  Yes, I am here, too.

That duet is one I repeat with my newly fledged adults.  Wee text messages, brief Facebook messages, short emails, even shorter phone calls.

I am here.  Yes, I am here, too.