happiness is a bird (or "A Song for H")

Yeah, it's confusing why this image is used for this post....

Sometime last year, in the middle of dinner, a friend asked me - "are you happy?"

I didn't give it much thought and answered with whatever was at the top of my head. 

Happiness is a bird.

"Happiness" always feels like an approximation for something else. Scratch beneath that word a little and you may discover other words for what you are trying to express.

For example, you may feel pride, you feel a sense of purpose, you feel a sense of community, you feel connected, you feel loved, you feel pleasure, you feel joy, you feel secure, you feel hopeful... And in this long list of feelings and possible states of mind, some of which endure and permeate our being, happiness is perhaps the most slight.

Below is a short piece "A Song for H" on happiness. It was written last year as a tribute and reply to that 1949 classic Hank Williams country love song "I'm so lonesome I could cry" (which he sang with such a quintessential country whine!), but also written with the form of an alphabet poem in mind. I toyed with the idea of it as the text for a picture book, but it eventually became just one of the 9 short pieces in Some Dreams are like Country Music.  

I'm sharing this piece ahead of an actual picture book I've been working on that is now finally being printed - ready in December I hope! It is called A House in a Forest. I promise, this has NO country music in it haha - no country broken-hearted whine. More importantly it is beautifully illustrated by MessyMsxi. The image above is a sheet of stickers featuring some of her small illustrations for the book (wait till you see the full page illustrations!). There are 2 illustrations of birds in this sticker sheet - that's the only link.


That day we were lying on the floor
Looking at the sky through the window
And you asked: what is happiness?
I thought you looked a little sad.
So, I put on a cowboy's accent
And said: happiness is a bit of a bird, my friend.
You didn't give up: what kind of bird?

A hornbill is too loud.
A hawk too precise.
Some have tried to cage a house wren, 
Mistaking the quotidian for forever.
Others tried to mimic the hummingbird.
But they taste nothing - 
their hearts never beat fast enough.
I paused. Birds are not quite my thing.
But you finally caught on to the game
And you whispered: a hermit thrush.
I kissed you on the brow and asked why;
The hermit thrush makes such a mournful song
on the forest floor where the leaves go to die.

You laughed: is one not considered wise to say
We only know happiness when we meet our sorrows?
For a long time we watched the night fall
until, at last, the moon went hiding behind the clouds.
One of us said:
I must leave you now to go on home.
Howl if you want to, and if lonesome, cry.


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