The Work of Happiness
by May Sarton
I thought of happiness how it is woven
Out of the silence in the empty house each day,
And how it is not sudden and it is not given
But is creation itself like the growth of a tree.
No one has seen it happen, but inside the bark
Another circle is growing in the expanding ring.
No one has heard the root go deeper in the dark,
But the tree is lifted by this inward work,
And its plumes shine, and its leaves are glittering.
So happiness is woven out of the peace of hours,
And strikes its roots deep in the house alone.
The old chest in the corner, cool waxed floors,
White curtains softly and continually blown
As the free air moves quietly about the room,
A shelf of books, a table, and the whitewashed wall –
These are the dear familiar gods of home,
And here the work of faith can best be done.
The growing tree is green and musical
For what is happiness but growth in peace,
The timeless sense of time when furniture
Has stood a life’s span in a single place;
And as the air moves, so the old dreams stir
The shining leaves of present happiness.
No one has heard thought or listened to a mind,
But where people have lived in inwardness
The air is charged with blessing and does bless;
Windows look out on mountains and the walls are kind.
photo Rose Cook
Of Molluscs by May Sarton
As the tide rises, the closed mollusc
Opens a fraction to the ocean’s food,
Bathed in its riches. Do not ask
What force would do, or if force could.
A knife is of no use against a fortress.
You might break it to pieces as gulls do.
No, only the rising tide and its slow progress
Opens the shell. Lovers, I tell you true.
You who have held yourselves closed hard
Against warm sun and wind, shelled up in fears
And hostile to a touch or tender word –
The ocean rises, salt as unshed tears.
Now you are floated on this gentle flood
That cannot force or be forced, welcome food
Salt as your tears, the rich ocean’s blood,
Eat, rest, be nourished on the tide of love.
(from Halfway To Silence, 1980)
(photo Rose Cook)