Contentment = Happiness
Looks like my entry on this page called “The Loser” pleased a fair few readers. That pleases me in return. As you’ll see as you scroll down, it dealt with the fact that Winter failed to win this time.
I don’t want to harp on about my long-since gone depressive illness. That would sound like self-pity and this blog is not a place for “oh-look-at-me” items!
My love and understanding of the countryside and, to a great degree, how it “holds together” has done much for my peace of mind and ability to ignore – as much as possible – the days when my spirits are less than up. I inherit that love and understanding from my Dad, I suppose.
You will find more about Dad on my blog’s My Family Histories Page; it’s under Family Portraits and his name was George Stevenson However, a little more about him here won’t hurt.
Being a country boy born and bred, he never lost his way of blending into the countryside. I don’t mean that he ever wore camouflage! He just fitted into its patchwork plan.
He would take me on bike rides to the then-small villages outside Wolverhampton: places like Codsall and Coven. There, and as we pedalled, he would share some of his knowledge of the living landscape with me. He knew the name of every tree. I recall him showing me what he called “damosels” – an old Surrey country name for Bulas or Wild Damson. They stood round the back of Brewood church.
Because of Dad – a quiet man with whom I never really conversed deeply – I suppose my favourite poem is “The South Country”. It’s all about the Sussex Downs and a branch of his and, therefore, my ancestry came from there.
When that rotten depression grabbed me thirty and more years ago, I lost the ability to enjoy poetry. Well, serious emotional poems, anyway – I could still wander lonely as a cloud (if I had to). But “The South Country” was too hard for me to bear, bringing to me memories and feelings which my Dad may have had. “And the men who were boys when I was a boy walking along with me” – what an evocative line that is, and one which made and makes me wonder when I see photos of him and his Scouting mates if he ever thought of them.
I have a photo of him, too, in black and white taken in the fields at Rhos-y-Gell during one of our family holidays there in the 1950s. It does not need colour to see the bright yellow sun reflecting off his bronzed skin.
I feel he was fulfilled – or as near to it as he could ever have become – when driving his cart-horse as it pulled the brewer’s dray and took him and the beer to outlying pubs along the field-lined roads and lanes.
I mention all this because I’ve only been able to go back to reading poetry for a couple of years. And, whilst searching for a certain poem in one of our many books yesterday, I read a whole book of poems.
It was “Small dreams of a Scorpion”, a load of poetry by Spike Milligan. Each poem showed the writer’s sensitivity to real events; there is no airy-fairy frippery about Spike’s poetry. And he was a successful man in many ways despite his depressive illnesses. When people said to his secretary Norma Parnes that “He’s quite insane, isn’t he?” she would say “Spike is the sanest person I have ever met.”
So there is nothing wrong with being “over-sensitive” to Life.
There is a lot to be said for rediscovering – if that is the word – something which one enjoyed a long, long time ago. In my case, that enjoyment came from reading and pondering upon poetry. So that again adds to the contentment in my life, alongside living amid beautiful countryside, having a loving wife and family, and my feelings of achievement in several spheres of my life.
And it is contentment which brings happiness.
I still miss my Dad. I would love to share lots of the things which have happened in my life with him. I would love him to share lots of the things which happened in his life with me.
“Love does not end at the grave.”
And, indulging myself, I shall end this piece with a poem I wrote in about 1970, a few years after my Dad’s passing:
My father wore black or grey trousers
Which hung, unstylish, from a thin waist.
He was comfortable, with skin that held the sun.
He had breathed unspoiled air
And could speak of the feel of fieldmice
Running over his leathery hands
While he gently tended a garden.
His eyes were sunk from a hard-travelled life.
He died without ceremony,
Leaving no gap in the history of the world,
But a great hole in mine.