I had been searching the sky for fireballs, as it was supposed to be the day of the Lyrid meteor shower (but it seems the peak had been sometime before dawn on Monday, so I was late). The day had been cloudy, but as the night settled in, the clouds parted. A slight haze caught the lights of nearby businesses, however, obscuring most of the stars — and with them, any laggard meteors.
But I wasn’t disappointed, and here’s why:
I wasn’t alone out there in the dark. My wife and daughter also were reclining on the pavement, with couch pillows under their heads. We talked about our day and our upcoming vacation, and we joked about being discovered by a passing possum that might wonder what sort of roadkill we were.
(I will admit to a moment of panic when, after my eyes had adjusted to the dark, I glanced aside and saw bright lights on the street intersecting the one where we lay, and I thought a car was approaching; it was only the lights from our living room casting a golden glow on the street.)
As we stared into the heavens, waiting for a glorious revelation that never presented itself, I was glad to be aware of that moment, fully engaged and recognizing the sanctity of the experience.
It seemed all the more important, in that the day this occurred marked one week since the Boston Marathon bombings. So much negativity, sadness and anger had filled the week prior, that releasing all of those emotions for the simple act of being still and enjoying the stars seemed like the only revelation I actually required.
The next day, I sat in St. Andrews Coffee House eating my regular order and eavesdropping on an elderly gentleman’s loud conversation with his lady companion. The arrival of our sandwiches had precipitated a lull in conversation with my own luncheon companion, so the talk at the neighboring table invaded the silence.
The gentleman was talking politics, calling people “idiots” and shifting in his chair, while I was watching foot traffic on the sidewalks, the light clouds skimming through a blue sky, and enjoying the gentle breeze coming through the open door. I thought, he needs to hush and listen to the breeze. He might not live longer, but he’d be happier about it.
Later that same day, I received an email promoting the Amazon best seller “A Short Course in Happiness: Practical Steps to a Happier Life,” by certified psychology coach Lynda Wallace. According to her, research shows that the happiest people do four basic things that make the difference in their lives: They focus on what is good and positive in their lives, cope effectively with life’s inevitable challenges, develop strong relationships and pursue meaningful goals.
Now, I don’t know how effectively I cope with life’s challenges, but I have made a concerted effort to focus on the positive. I have goals I believe are meaningful, but most importantly I’ve been trying to develop meaningful relationships with creative, positive, compassionate thinkers and doers, both in my family and my circles of friends and acquaintances.
There are so many good people who share this region with us — artists, writers, philosophers, musicians, readers, actors, scientists, theologians, environmentalists, teachers, students and so many others. People doing good, striving to be better, and hoping for the best.
People who happily stare into the heavens and seek enlightenment, though our vision is clouded and our understanding limited — if only to wish upon a falling star.
(This is my Undercurrents column for this week.)