Happiness, Hobbits & Tabby Cats

I’ve been reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy for a month now. It’s been an evening habit of sorts: dropping a peppermint tea bag into a mug, steeping it in hot water, getting into bed and disappearing into the vast yet intricate lands of Middle Earth.

When I began the long journey through Tolkien’s classics, I was ready for grand adventures and epic battles that I knew awaited me within the pages. Fierce, brave characters whose lives had been thrust into a war between good and evil.

Yet in hindsight–perhaps predictably–some of my favorite parts have been the small ones. The funny, human moments of hobbits inquiring about the next meal. A sweet passage about Aragorn, the rightful king of Gondor, searching for common herbs to heal his friends. Even tiny details of how Shadowfax, “lord of all horses,” had been housed and fed.

These otherwise forgettable moments have brought a smile, and occasionally deep laughter, to the warm lamplight of my room on a sleepy street, somewhere outside Little Rock, Arkansas.

Every evening we take a walk. It’s not far and the weather is still sadly stuck somewhere in August, but our walk is my favorite time of day. Ralph happily trots along between me and Scott as the sun sinks behind the trees.

Three times now we’ve had a different sweet, elderly woman stop and chat with us. They each tell us how they love seeing Ralph walk by every night. That their dogs get excited knowing the three of us will soon be coming into view.

At first I felt a tender sort of sadness for these ladies–that us walking by their house each evening would be a highlight of their day. But the closer I looked and the longer we talked, I saw how happy they were.

None of them live alone–one lives with her husband, the other with her brother, and another with her grandchildren. They have houses on a well-kept, friendly street. I have no reason to feel sadness for them. They simply seem genuinely tickled by our fluffy dog prancing down the road with his long tail curled into a great white plume.

One of them happens to own a cat who loves dogs. Her orange tabby delights in appearing out of the dense bushes and greeting us in the twilight. Ralph sniffs his acquaintance politely as the cat meows to be petted.

And of course I’m the biggest sucker of all–always excited to see if this cat will visit us as we walk by. When he does, I pet him sweetly and he’s started to let me hold him, purring contentedly.

I realize now how these charming women feel, asking their loved ones each evening, Will the white dog walk by?

Because in the same moment, I’m asking Scott, Will the orange cat come find us tonight?

In thinking about this blog, often struggling to find something in my daily life to write about, I have come to realize the true essence of what I’m constantly working to capture.

It always comes down to tiny, overlooked moments. Those almost intangible seconds of life that give your heart a thrill.

I think we can all get caught up assembling the intricate puzzle of life, getting fooled into thinking the puzzle is the point, even the goal. That once everything is in place–our home, our health, our relationships, our careers, our finances–happiness will come as a result. That it’ll knock on our door and we’ll finally be worthy to invite it in for coffee.

But the point of any puzzle is the process. The mess. The hope and satisfaction. The people you get to sit with, creating something beautiful in a long series of tiny trials and errors.

Meanwhile, happiness–better yet, Joy– has been comfortably settled in your house, sleeping peacefully in the next room. Riding along in the passenger seat of your car. Sitting on the back steps of the house gazing at the sky and the grass and the occasional ducks flying overhead. And its best friend, Hope, can be found in the kitchen every morning, opening the curtains to let the sunlight stream in. Faithfully preparing for another day.

Lately I’ve been relentless in finding delight in seemingly mundane moments. The steam from a great cup of coffee. The way our dog curls up next to our bed, comforted merely by proximity to his people. A clean kitchen or a pink sky or grocery store flowers or a well-worded email or a foggy morning or a story about hobbits or a million things that require only that I notice them.

My theory is that if I make a habit of turning to small, good things, I won’t be able to stop.

And on bad days where nothing goes right and a difficult journey threatens to bring me to my knees, that habit of looking for small, good things will kick in.

If the neighbor’s friendly, orange cat comes to say hello, I’m promising to stop and notice. To pet it softly and realize that it’s not a distraction from life.

It’s one of the best parts.

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