“In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”
A hungry gopher has been pulling my sunflowers down into the warm earth, one-by-one, delighting in their deliciousness. Today, when walking the fenceline of the garden, I saw what remained of one of the young stalks. Most of it was below ground, or in the gopher’s belly. In an instant, anger flashed through me. I walked back to my cottage, my heart beating hard in my chest.
“He’s one of my creatures,” God reminded me as I closed the garden gate.
“Yes, but he’s eating my flowers,” I said.
“Your flowers,” I said rather sheepishly.
“Plant more,” God suggested. “There will be enough for the gopher’s dinner and your enjoyment.”
I turned and watched a dozen birds vying for position on the tall feeders that I fill every morning. Below them, a gray squirrel was eating the peanuts I had placed in a bowl. What’s one more hungry mouth to feed? I thought to myself, mentally making a note to buy sunflower seeds.
“Be tolerant of all that I’ve made. Including gophers. Even people,” God said.
“Only you, God, can take devoured sunflower stalks and turn them into a lesson about love.”
“That’s why they pay me the big bucks.”
I laughed. “Now you are just being silly.”
“You think that’s silly? Have you seen my platypus?” God chuckled.
I smiled, happy to get on with my day. Happy to be relieved of worrying about a gopher eating its way down a row of God’s sunflowers.
“Tell me about happiness,” I asked God in a particularly unhappy moment.
“Oh, yes, happiness. One of the most misunderstood emotions,” He replied.
“I don’t misunderstand it, I just miss it,” I grumbled.
“There, there, my little Sparrow,” God said softly. “I’ll explain happiness to you.”
“I’m listening,” I said, as I focused my attention on God’s words.
“People search all over for happiness as if I made it hard to find. They look for it in relationships, in their bank accounts, in the way their body looks. They even look for it in mac n’ cheese,” God chuckled. It’s not in any of those things. No, you don’t have to go looking for happiness. I made it easy to find. I put it inside of everyone so no one could lose it. But people don’t think I made it that easy. They don’t think to look inside of themselves. So, they keep looking outward,” God explained.
“But where is it inside of me? I can’t find it in me,” I said honestly.
“It’s in your heart, not your head. You can’t think your way to happiness; you must feel your way there.”
“How? All I feel is chaos today.”
“Take a deep breath. Can you smell the hints of spice from the cedar next to you? Can you feel the comfort of the sun on your skin? Listen. Hear the birds on the telephone wire singing? See the flowers in your garden dancing on the breeze? That’s happiness,” God said. “Happiness is life. It’s a beating heart. It’s breath in your lungs.”
“But…” I started to argue.
“No buts, Sparrow,” God stopped me. “Happiness dwells inside of you because I dwell inside of you.”
I took a deep breath as I put my hand over my heart and felt its steady rhythm. I exhaled into the moment. Finally, I understood. God put Himself inside of us and that is where our happiness resides. In Him. In the gift of being alive.
“Oh give thanks to the Lord…”
A cold wind blows down from the Sierra’s. I pull my scarf up around my head, hoping to ward off the chill. I’m walking in the fold of the day where the morning turns into the fullness of the afternoon. A handful of leaves scatter across the street and then settle. Their small racket stirs within me memories of winters past; nights spent in front of crackling fires with friends. I hold their faces in my heart and I’m warmed. Overhead, the warning of a crow, a shrill crisp note, called over and over, breaks the quiet. Further down the road, I walk past a woman sitting in a rocker on her front porch. She waves to me as if we are long-lost friends. I smile and return the wave. I’m glad to be alive on this blustery day.
I promise myself that when I return home I will make an entry in my journal: “Today is a good day.” I’ll thumb through old posts and read of the days when I was barely surviving. They remind me how amazing my life is now. I haven’t won the lottery, or made a lot of money, or been asked for my hand in marriage, but still, it’s a good day. I’ve felt the wind. I’ve heard the sounds of nature. I’ve remembered friends and waved to a stranger. These small things that seem so inconsequential are the things that make life worth living. I give thanks to God for them.