How to be Happy in Tiny Slices

feathergrassseedAfter spending so much time bitching about the heat, and having it last for so much longer than usual, I find myself today feeling melancholy about the end of summer. Eric is hiking with the dogs, and I’m trying to not feel too sorry for myself that by the time I can go with, the aspens will have dropped all their leaves. I was at the grocery store this morning and noticed that they had de-icer, ice scrapers, and snow shovels on display. Ringo will turn two years old in another few months, the day after I turn 48. It’s all going by so fast.

A few weeks ago, at the last minute and not knowing how I was going to fit it into my schedule, I signed up for Laurie Wagner’s online Wild Writing class. I’ve taken an online class with Laurie before, (Telling True Stories), and been lucky enough to do a few sessions of Wild Writing in person with her, sitting at the long wooden table in her dining room at 27 Powers. It’s a particular kind of magic, that place and that person and that practice. To say it’s transformative doesn’t even begin to explain it. Now that I’m back at it, I can’t believe I waited so long. As much as I do to be present and awake and engaged, this practice in particular makes me come alive.

Last week, one of the prompts Laurie shared was by one of my favorite poets, Maya Stein, a poem called “How to be Happy in Tiny Slices.” Maya has a way of writing an ending, a final line, a last moment that breaks the whole poem wide open, every time, and this poem is no different. I liked what I wrote in response to the prompt, a messy start to something or simply a glimpse of something passing, and wanted to share it with you, kind and gentle reader.

How to be happy in tiny slices: Feel the pop of the cherry tomato and taste the warm sour sweet of its juice. Notice the tiny yellow birds, pause to watch them knowing they are rarely still enough to allow themselves to be seen. Slide the mala beads between your fingers, noticing how they go from cold to warm in the heat of your hand. Halfway through, when the words of the mantra no longer make any sense at all, translate them to what you need, like on the dark mornings when the only thing that works is “it’s okay, I’m okay, everything is okay,” even when it’s not. Taste a fresh peach, the tart bright sweetness, knowing it won’t last, that even the very next bite of the exact same peach won’t taste the same. Remember all those that will never taste another peach or cherry tomato and how weird it is to be human and never really know which one will be your last bite, and how tender and sad it is, that hope that the last bite, if it’s to be the last bite, be sweet. Feel the way the sun warms his fur, smell that spot on the top of his head, remember what it was like when he was just a baby, at the same time you know how awful it will be when he goes. Sit in the sun. Be still. Be quiet. Breathe. Move, as Osho says, the way joy makes you move. Sleep, put clean sheets on the bed, take a shower and put on clean pajamas — but wait, I said that all backwards, didn’t I? So next would be to wake up, and when you wake up, get up. Stretch. Drink some water. Meditate. Light the candles. Turn down the lights, get a blanket for your lap, make sure you have your favorite pen, put one word in front of the other. Forgive them, let it go, start over. And when you find yourself confused, off track, stuck in a dream or caught up in a feeling, let go and come back.

8 thoughts on “How to be Happy in Tiny Slices

  1. laurie

    Jill – love what you wrote, love that you shared it here. This is how we change the waters. Maya writes the poem, I read the poem and read it to you in Wild Writing, you take it in and push your version right back out. Can you imagine where it will go from here and who will be touched just as you and I were? Gorgeous goodness all around. xxxx

    1. jillsalahub Post author

      I keep thinking about how you said, right after this round of writing, that we never know who needs what we wrote, that we have to keep showing up and sharing because we never know who needs it. It’s not up to us to decide if it’s worth it, to make it precious or perfect, we just have to make the mess and give it away because we just don’t know. I adore you. xo

  2. Lisa Sadikman

    Oh Jill, I love this so much. I too wrote from Maya’s poem this week but in person with Laurie and other beautiful women at the table at 27 Powers. Very grateful for these words of connection over the miles and the magic they weave among us. xx

  3. lauriesuewagner

    Jill – and there’s more to it. It’s so easy when we’re writing to say, “oh, this is bad, I hate what I wrote.” But if we consider that what we write may not be for ourselves, but for someone else, then it’s a little easier to step outside of the ego and honor what’s coming down the pike. It may be for someone else’s ears entirely. We don’t know how our “bad writing” might be exactly what they need to hear. xxxoo

  4. Maya Rachel Stein

    Jill, I am so appreciative of your response to my poem – loved where it took you, the little twists, the exits off the highway that need to be taken. I’m always so struck by how powerful our quietest moments can be. How very little movement is required for something to change, deeply and perhaps forever. How taking the time and taking notice makes the world come back to center, and gives the melancholy or chaos or confusion or uncertainty a chance to be itself with less of our judgment. I think writing is such a powerful way to meet our landscape – in all its bumpiness – with more acceptance, but really, most of all, with devotion. I’d say you’ve got it right on the money here.


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