December 31, 2018 by Jean
The older I get, the more convinced I become that the secret to happiness is finding pleasure in small moments. Sometimes these small moments come in interaction with others – a moment of shared humor, or the feeling of intellectually flying that I get from a particularly lively class or book discussion. But more often for me, these small moments are solitary moments of sensual pleasure.
One such moment came recently when I was out shoveling snow along a narrow walkway at the front of my house. This is a part of my garden that I call the “Lavender Walk” because English lavender is planted on both sides of the walkway. The garden is mostly buried under snow at this time of year, but as my shovel brushed the edge of the lavender plants, their essential oils were released and the scent of lavender wafted on the air. In a fragrance-deprived season, that summery perfume was a swoon-worthy delight. Such sensory pleasures are my primary motivation for gardening.
I often use routines and rituals to focus my attention on small pleasures. During the garden season, for example, I begin each day by pouring out my first mug of tea and taking it with me as I step outside to walk slowly through the garden. I always follow the same route, focusing in turn on each garden area. Depending on the month and the weather, my “morning tour of the garden” can take anywhere from fifteen minutes to more than an hour, but it always brings small moments of pleasure as I note small changes, new growth and new buds.
Ordinary sensual pleasures become something special when they are not always available. The pleasures of the garden are seasonal, and the anticipation of each season’s delights adds another layer of pleasure. As the days get longer and the sun gets stronger in March, for example, I wait for the heady moment when the first crocus will push up through the melting snow and bloom. By the time the crocuses fade, other flowers have taken their place, taking center stage for a few days or a few weeks. In mid-summer, daylilies (one of my favorite plants) are the glory of my garden, and their bloom is preceded by weeks of watching their developing buds and anticipating their glorious flowers.
Food is another area of my life where I regularly savor small moments of pleasure. Because I try to buy as much of my food as possible from local farmers, my food pleasures, like my garden pleasures, are heightened by their seasonality. As each crop is harvested and becomes available at the farmers’ market, I rediscover favorite meals that I haven’t eaten in months. In fall, for example, as the pumpkins, winter squashes and root vegetables reappear, I delight anew in the pleasures of rich winter soups and in such main dishes as butternut squash galette and sweet potato quesadillas. This week, I’ve been savoring the foods of my annual Christmas turkey feast. Yesterday, I enjoyed the olfactory pleasure of turkey stock simmering on the stove all day long, and I now have many quarts of soup stock and packets of turkey meat in the freezer for delectable winter meals.
As December gives way to January, I have turned my attention to the quiet pleasures of winter: the rosy glow of a winter dawn, the sight of trees cloaked in new snow, turning out lights in the house to watch a big winter full moon rising through the woods, the amazing quality of moonlight on snow, the breathtaking view of a star-filled sky on a clear winter night. And I’m watching the new growth on my potted amaryllis bulbs, anticipating the pleasure of their beautiful flowers in the weeks to come.
In every season, each day brings small, exquisite moments of pleasure, providing me with daily feelings of contentment and happiness.