I can attest to the fact that this statement is true: life’s simplest pleasures are the most soul-enriching and life-fulfilling. And I say as much because, as someone long ago relegated to the slow lane of life, the chaotic hustle and bustle can be exhausting and simply too damn loud and overwhelming.
Almost to the day,23 years ago, I was living in a small podunk town in central Massachusetts. “Shacking up”, as they used to say, with a woman and 2 of her 5 kids that had accepted my proposal of marriage to what would become my second ex-wife (and final) years later, I was in the beginning phase of the life I had always wanted; living on a 63 Acre former Dairy Farm with a fish pond, a couple of horses, a steer we named “Dizzy and were raising to be butchered, a coop full of chickens, and a house full of cats and dogs. I couldn’t have known at the time, but these were ultimately the next-to-last best days of my life.
A couple of towns over from the farm there was a little shopping area, “over yonder” from the feed store, and the future Missus and I wandered over to do a little mindless shopping while the store hands loaded the truck with the monthly supply of feed, hay, grain, chicken scratch, and dog/cat food. The first place we went into was a small general store and we parted ways right inside the door – she went straight to the back to look at the riding shoes in women’s sizes, and I headed straight to pocket and utility knives – agreeing to meet at checkout in a little while.
Walking along the outside wall, making my way past the store windows into the knife section, I came to a screeching halt. Okay, maybe not screeching, but you get my meaning. Anyway… I happened upon the largest wind chime I had ever seen in my life. It was at least 5 ft tall and made a sound almost like what you might hear in a cathedral or one of those pipe organs like in the old movie Phantom of the Opera. The sound was more metallic, of course, but had incredibly deep tones with amazing resonance and vibration. I’m sure, to other shoppers, I must have looked pretty weird standing there with my jaw dropped around my shoulders in complete awe and fascination with that thing.
Thinking back on it now, I’m pretty sure the very next thing I did was look around to see whether my future bride saw me looking at it because, at that moment, I had already decided I was going to hang it up in the tree under which we were going to have our outdoor wedding ceremony and she would know nothing of it until she walked up to the altar to meet me and the JP. I had already played it out in my mind that I would wait for her to notice while we were exchanging vows, or tell her to look up after I had “kissed the bride”.
A couple of days before the wedding I pretended to need to run an errand and went back to that store to buy those wind chimes. Early in the morning on our wedding day, while she was getting primped and coiffed, I sent my soon-to-be stepson up that tree to hang the wind chimes. As it turned out – because she was so nervous – she didn’t notice them so I had to tell her to look up after the kiss that sealed the deal and when she did, she cried. #winning.
Life is filled with twists and turns and ours was no different. 5 months later, after being hired for a job that would move us to Texas, we found ourselves scrambling around to help the moving company find everything, loaded up, and get ourselves ready for the trip south. In all the commotion, with so much going through my head, I almost forgot about those wind chimes still hanging up in that tree but at almost the last minute I sent my new stepson up the tree to collect them before the moving van had shut its doors. It would be several months before we were reunited with them but once we had them back we put them up in a tree in the middle area of the yard where we could hear them no matter where we were. We could hear them on windy days when we were in our above-ground pool, we heard them on warm Breezy nights when we were sitting around a bonfire or a crackling chiminea or ever-busy bug zapper. We heard them through the window over coffee and breakfast in the morning and we heard them throughout the day as we did yard work, construction projects, or worked one of our seven horses in the riding ring I had built a few feet away from them. You could say they became a part of me, my own personal Zen perhaps, or just an old familiar set of sounds that gave me comfort and peace sort of in the background as I went about living my daily life. They made me happy and made me feel whole.
Unfortunately, as many marriages do, ours failed in the end. The reasons why are not relevant to this essay, but you will be mildly entertained to know that, of all the things I lost in that divorce, you can rest assured those damn wind chimes were not part of the list. I kept them until they had completely fallen apart, the strings holding them together having dry rotted from Sun bleach and exposure until I had no choice but to let them go.
I left Texas ten years after I had gotten there, moved back to the Northeast to live with and take care of my mother in her final years, and then suffered my third stroke shortly after her death. It took a while, but I have since recovered enough that I have my own apartment again, with a front porch- replete with a wealth of seating room – and what do you think I bought once I got myself and my canine soulmate Daisy settled in?
My house is in a standard size New England neighborhood where the houses are old, very close together, and in a part of town where it is as still and quiet as a cemetery after 11 p.m. The center of town runs along a major river and my house is effectively uphill at a higher elevation about a mile away due west. The hospital where I have had several stroke-related week-long pajama parties is to the north. The city bus stop is an equally short walk to the South. Daisy and I sit on that porch and watch the sunset. We also go out at bedtime, anywhere between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. (depending on how well I’m holding a train of thought when I’m writing), and we have been doing this for the six years we have lived in this house.
Year-round- no matter the temperature or weather condition- Daisy and I sit on that porch before bedtime to recap the day’s events, review the things we didn’t accomplish, and otherwise discuss whatever happens to be on my mind at the time. Now and again I even rattle off a list of things I might be considering doing the next day. She is a very good listener and she never interrupts me (I must admit to having heard her snoring from time to time though), as I think out loud in the silence, but she never complains. I have reflected over all of the things that have come and gone in my life countless times during these moments together and through it all…Providing the background mood music… Are those soul-enriching and life-fulfilling wind chimes. Simple pleasure? Perhaps. But whoever said finding happiness… Achieving your Zen… Had to be complicated?