It is a stunningly beautiful day in southern California. I stepped outside this morning and blinked in the brightness of the sunshine, warm as a perfect summer day yet with an edge of crispness that tells you we just turned a page of the calendar. As Chloe and I ambled over to the chicken yard, a rooster crowed in the distance right on cue, and I thought of how incredibly lucky I was to have that particular moment in time – sleeping until 8, faithful Golden Retriever by my side, chickens to greet, a perfect day and the rural sound effects of a rooster without having to keep one myself. I felt…dare I say it…happy!
Which brought to mind the recent musings of NYT columnist Maureen Dowd. My stepdaughter, Angela, sent me a link last week and asked what I thought of a particular column, which was entitled Blue is the New Black, and in which Ms. Dowd reflects on studies that demonstrate the finding that while men are, in general, happier than they were three decades ago, women are getting gloomier. She quotes Marcus Buckingham, a former Gallup researcher who has written a book called Find Your Strongest Life: What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently. According to Mr. Buckingham, “Though women begin their lives more fulfilled than men, as they age, they gradually become less happy.” According to studies, this is the case regardless of how successful they are, how much money they make or whether or not they have children.
This may be where it comes in handy to have a failing memory, because, try as I might, I cannot remember a time in my life – other than those magical years when the boys were young and every day felt like Christmas – when I was significantly happier than I am now. Okay, college was pretty great, with all the independence of an adult and none of the financial responsibilities plus all the 3.2 beer I could drink, but I actually remember those years and many that followed as being pretty stressful, what with having to figure out life and career and family. It may well be that I have lowered my expectations, but the CE and I have found that one of the best things about getting older is that we are made utterly content by some of the simplest things, like waking up on a day as beautiful as this one and heading out to check on my little flock of ladies.
So on this perfect morning, I found myself feeling sorry for Maureen Dowd. I wonder if chickens would help? They apparently did for writer Susan Orlean, whose charming article in the September 28 issue of The New Yorker magazine was another recent source of happiness for me. The subject matter aside, Ms. Orlean’s work is a pleasure to read simply as an example of someone who was clearly born to write. Luckily, she was also apparently born to have chickens, as her affection for her flock infuses each paragraph. The article is entitled “The IT Bird” and traces the history of backyard chicken-keeping in the United States while sharing personal insights about her own “chicken condition”.
Ms. Orlean apparently has a Twitter page where her followers can get regular updates on her chickens. http://twitter.com/Susanorlean I looked at it briefly today, and she certainly seems happy to me. Can it be a coincidence or could it truly be that happiness really is all about chickens?