That crisp, clean, dry smell of autumn is in the air, so stunning and surprising every year, a smell forever connected to bright color, fresh apples and the eagerness of children, pencils and notebooks in hand. This has always seemed more like the beginning of the new year to me than Jan 1st ever has. There is a sense of possibility that is the main component of cheerfulness, and which is the first secret of the good life.
Cheerfulness isn’t the same as happiness. You can’t always be happy. Or satisfied. But a cheerful outlook is always possible. We do not get to decide whether the economy will recover faster or slower. We do not get to pick who gets sick and who stays well. But we do get to decide to build a cheery little fire, throw the stick for the puppy, or whether to rush through a shower or take a long hot bath. Most of us don’t get to make too many of the really big decisions, but it’s the little ones we can control which wind up mattering most of all.
Last spring we shared a difficult time with our kids, then this summer our youngest got dreadfully scarily sick, followed closely by the loss of our puppy Gracie and now the death of our old friend Stu. It has been a hard year someone close enough to know recently said to me. And when I look back on this messy year, in fact my whole loud messy life with a few wrong turns and days I wish I could rewrite, and then I think of the three kids we made and I cannot possibly regret anything in the chain of events that led to their existence and to this time we get to share with them… messes and all. Because in between the clutter there are those days with quilts on the grass and orangery leaves floating down. There are manicures and soccer games and first parties in new apartments. There are photographs that show me how my girl sees the world and homework done in my bed under the covers and a young man who caught his first fish in the river behind his new house. So I’ll keep holding hands with my sweet husband and stick to what we’ve got.
Emerson said, “Every great and commanding moment in the annals of the world is the triumph of some enthusiasm … this is the one remedy for all ills, the panacea of nature. We must be lovers and at once the impossible becomes possible.”
So now comes a new puppy named Oscar. He is full of boundless grins. It is impossible to be sad for long with Oscar around. He is relentlessly cheerful. Then yesterday I found a woman up north with some baby chicks and another outing is planned. Plus the apple orchards are bursting and I am thinking warm pie. These autumn days are so golden, if there was a whole month of them, your mailman would start acting like the star of a Broadway musical leading his own parade downtown and your preacher would stop choosing those hymns no one ever knows in favor of some zippy show tunes from Godspell.
Lighten up. Leave the morose grumbling to the tea partiers. Yes they will likely take back the House. Well let them. We haven’t done much with it. The world will not end. It didn’t when Bush was president and it won’t now either. Forget about the guy with the bonfire in Florida. Pay him no attention. Send a cheery bouquet to your local mosque instead. As Emerson said, “This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it. … Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”
In other words, cheer up.