Saturday, January 7, 2012

Happiness Comes in Bursts

Have you ever had a moment when everything felt right and good, a feeling washed over you or burst in through an open door somewhere inside you, and you knew everything had fallen into place?  I call them bursts of happiness and they stop me in my tracks for just a moment while I pause and say yes to life and life says yes to me. They don't happen often. I suppose that's what makes them feel so special.

My bursts of happiness can happen when I'm driving in a car, walking down the road, vacuuming my house, just living life, but always when I least expect them. A couple of days ago, as I was working in the kitchen, I just turned around and there it was: this perfect crystalline moment and life felt so darn sweet.

This morning I opened a book of poetry, as I'm wont to do, and there was none other than Charles Bukowski, a rather rough-edged fellow, looking back at me. His poems, surrounded by all this sad and serious melancholy, usually include just the tiniest bit of light coming through the cracks, his own bursts of happiness. So you see, it can happen to anybody. But, you probably already knew that.

The poem I opened to, "too sweet," reminded me of my own days at the race track. I didn't get there often, never took a trip solely for that purpose, but I recall at least one day in Arizona and more than a few in Hot Springs, Arkansas. I liked to play the ponies and I don't mind saying that. I was a pretty safe bettor, never went too far out on the financial limb.

One day, out of the blue, I decided to get a better look at the horses. It wasn't that I expected to get some inside information, but I like horses and those were some very pretty horses. On my way back to the stands, as I stood and watched them being ridden to the starting gate, a dark-haired fellow silently moved next to me. I was momentarily uncomfortable. Then he quietly said, "Bet on 7." Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I walked to a betting booth and placed my bet, covering Number 7.  Couldn't tell you the horse's name now, which is a shame, but in that one bet my entire trip was paid for.

I don't think I've been back since, not because I saw the error of my ways, but for lack of opportunity. Life took me in another direction and my time at the track was over. No regrets. I like going out a winner. Here's Bukowski to tell you how it feels. And not just about winning at the track, but life in those moments when there's an open door in your heart you didn't even know was there and happiness comes bursting through.

"too sweet"

I have been going to the track for so
long that
all the employees know
and now with winter here
it's dark before the  last
as I walk to the parking lot
the valet recognizes my
slouching gait
and before I reach him
my car is waiting for me,
lights on, engine warm.
the other patrons
(still waiting)
"who the hell is that

I slip the valet a
tip, the size depending upon the
luck of the
day (and my luck has been amazingly
good lately)
and I then am in the machine and out on
the street
as the horses break
from the gate.

I drive east down Century Blvd.
turning on the radio to get the result of that
last race.

at first the announcer is concerned only with
bad weather and poor freeway
we are old friends: I have listened to his
voice for decades but,
of course, the time will finally come
when neither of us will need to
clip our toenails or
heed the complaints of our
women any longer.

meanwhile, there is a certain rhythm
to the essentials that now need
attending to.
I light my cigarette
check the dashboard
adjust the seat and
weave between a Volks and a Fiat.
as flecks of rain spatter the
I decide not to die just
this good life just smells too

~ Charles Bukowski  (1920-1994)


  1. My first encounter with Charles Bukowski was when a friend (c. 1979-1980) loaned me his copy of Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions, and General Tales of Ordinary Madness. It was comforting to discover someone who made me look normal.

    My WV is 'abusane'. How apropos!

  2. Oh, thank you. You just made me feel a whole lot better about posting this. Love that WV.

  3. I like this poem. I often like the poems you post, although you know I don't think of myself as a poetry fan. Thanks for the exposure!

    My WV is "regimper." I don't think that signifies anything, and now I'm dejected by random meaninglessness.

    Okay, I'm better now. Also, those bursts are better than anything.

  4. GLD, You have a quick recovery time. That's good.

    re: regimping - I always look at the etymology. Gimp: 1st def. "an ornamental flat braid or round cord used as a trimming."


    Any upholstering in your life?


    Yep, those bursts are better than anything.

  5. OMG! I haven't heard of gimp since I went to Bible Camp at Lake Shetek back in the 50's. One of the main craft items was gimp--thin plastic strips that we braided into bracelets, etc!

  6. You find, and share, the loveliest thoughts! I like this a lot, perhaps especially because he is expressing himself in such ordinary-life details. Which is, of course, how each of us finds the sweetness of our own life. Thanks!

  7. Ms. Sparrow, I Love it. If you made them into a keychain that hung around your neck it was called a lanyard. Billy Collins, another fine poet, has a poem about it called, yep, "Lanyards

    Nancy, Thank you much. It is in the ordinary that the sweetness is found. It took me awhile to understand that, but now that I do, life is even better.

  8. Okay, I admit it - I don't get the WV thing and I've never been to a horse race. Of course, this does not mean I am above gambling by any means whatsoever.

    Ah, those bursts of happiness. They've been few and far between for me lately, but I do know what you mean and I miss them. You already know how I love Bukowski.

  9. RJ, re: Fearguth's "abusane" - shmooshing words together reveals some interesting things. Maybe because I knew what he was referring to says more about me than I should own up to... :)
    Charles was one of those: dark and troubled, and easier to love in retrospect.....

  10. as flecks of rain spatter the
    I decide not to die just
    this good life just smells too

    I sometimes think of Bukowski as Everyman with an experienced edge, the ingredient that stirs life into bursts of happiness. Great post, Teresa!

  11. Our Mutial friend of Polish extraction is right! It's not the great Big Fireworks than bring joy, It's the tiny sparks that only one can see........

  12. Life smells sweeter without cigarettes...

    More bursts of happiness are headed your way. This is the year of magical awesomeness ;)

  13. Will, No doubt about that. And yes, Magical Awesomeness. I'm with you all the way....

  14. He has it just about perfect, even if it's not the races I've been to.

    Bursts of happiness last but a moment and they never hit the same spot twice. You go looking for them and they laugh at you for being so foolish, but take a breather, look around you and you might just catch one.

  15. Hey, Miss Kittie, He definitely had an "experienced edge." It often makes good poets. Good to hear from you!

    Tony, Yes, the tiny sparks....

    Hello again, Will! :)

    Friko, Always unexpected. That's what makes them so wonderful.

  16. This is all just so wonderous, Teresa; your post, the poem.

    I had a burst of happiness just about an hour so so ago. The sun was starting to drop, but, still bright and making it hard to see ahead. As I rounded the bend, the moon was as big and bright and round and sat like a bookend. I got out of the car to take a photo, aimed, clicked, and had a feeling I was being watched. I was. Eight pairs of eyes, half of them just across the road, were gazing at me. I stared at them. They stared back. They won. I got back in the car, my heart pitty-patting and the deer went back to eating.

    You share the best poems. Thank you.

  17. Yes, Teresa, life comes in bursts, unexpectedly for the most part, and often so quietly that they can be missed if one is not very attentive. One needs to be mindful, for happiness to leap out of anything or anyplace at anytime. Liked Bukowski's poem—amusing and the last line is profound!

  18. Hi Penny, I'm glad you had a moment with the deer. And thanks for the nice comments.

    George, I love seeing those cracks of light in Bukowski's poems. He was good at expressing those bursts of happiness. Coupled with his wry sense of humor, it made for some interesting poetry.

  19. Teresa,
    Very lovely...I actually love that poem; such great thoughts at various levels. and I love your thought of Burst of Happiness...I often have them but have never identified them as such!

  20. I have those bursts too and have called them random bits of happiness. I used to work as a real estate agent in Hot Springs, one day I was in the brokers office on the main drag there and it was a race day, all of a sudden out the window I saw a riderless horse from the race galloping by - apparently the jockey had fallen off and somehow the horse had escaped the field. it was one of those moments when you see something but aren't quite sure you really saw it or if it was a dream. it would be a great scene in a movie. my wv is 'sisacati'

  21. Tracy, It's the closest I could come to describing it, a really indescribable feeling. Thanks.

    Linda, What an incredible sight that must have been. Yes, a great scene in a movie, like something in a dream. My heavens, you've lived a varied life!

  22. Oh those last two lines. I always wonder why we don't have more of these moments. Maybe we let life get in the way. Maybe we should pay more attention to the ordinary.

  23. I haven't had many of those moments lately, but I now realize that they often come after some low periods, so I'll be watching for one.

    This morning I got up and I was humming a happy tune. Perhaps I just wasn't paying enough attention to that moment. :-)

  24. I really like this guy! I have never heard of him or read anything by him before but, what I was missing. My grandfather used to play the ponies. Lost so much in his lifetime. Probably bought his house more than once too, via loans. I never did. Have never even been to the track. I guess I saw too much as a child. I used to play with all his stubs that he stuck in the drawer of the table. I don't know why he kept them. Remembrance? Wishes? He was a mean man...full of anger and bitterness. I never remember him hugging me or telling me anything nice. I wonder if he ever had any glimmers of something wonderful? I have had those "moments" myself. All of a sudden, it feels as if the whole world is after a good jolt of caffeine and you are really "up". Maybe that's why people do get to those moments more often?? I happy with them occasionally.

  25. I think I have had my share of bursts of happiness..I am happy to say. I have always thought I have had a "charmed life" and I happy for verification word is sated!

  26. FARMLADY, It is in the ordinary, without exception, that these moments happen, the world stands perfectly at peace and Everything feels right. It lasts so briefly, really a moment.

    DJAN, They come completely unexpectedly, when I'm not looking or watching, but something must be happening inside because I'm obviously ready for them when they happen.

    I've also heard them called, "moments of divine consciousness," and that seems to sum them up even better!

    Waking up humming a happy tune is good, too (I just typed god). :)

    TERI, Gambling that becomes an addiction, or leads one to think that's where happiness lies, is a terrible trap. Terrible. So many people have lost everything because they could not get outside that kind of thinking/feeling. I'm happy with them occasionally, too. That's what makes them Bursts of Happiness, and so very special, in a very quiet sort of way. :)

    AIN'T FOR CITY GALS, WV must have picked up on "had my share!" :)

    They are such nice affirmations of Life.

  27. You are right, there are slivers of happiness in a couple places in this poem. I always thought he was grim, but I was mistaken.

  28. CiCi, Many wonderful poets had a grim, dark side, but also moments of great Light. It's good to hang on to those. :)

  29. Charles is one of my favorites, I think I have all he published.I heard him a long time back and always will remember him well.

  30. That's so nice to know, Steve. I trust Life is unfolding beautifully for you in your new circumstances.

  31. Maybe it all means that I should do something about the loosening trim that the cats have worked loose? That doesn't seem very profound, though. I'll keep thinking about it. If the universe can speak through poetry, why not through word verification?

    I am "reptost" with gladness.

  32. GLD, Profound only to the cats?

    Me, too. LOL

  33. More than anything Bukowski knew where, and who he was.
    Unlike the most of us.
    When reading his writings one has to put themselves in his shoes.
    Hard to do, but not impossible.
    He saw life for what it was, could be, and should be.
    I will always remember him by the grin he had on his face when he looked through people.
    He knew what the real deal was.

  34. RZ, Thank you so much for sharing your understanding of him. I often feel that those people society would deem troubled, or too far out on the edge, are the very ones who have the most to offer us, if we are willing to listen.

    I really appreciate this.

  35. Dear Teresa,
    So often--in fact, most often--when I read your postings I end with a sigh of contentment. The sigh of knowing that out there in the world beyond there is a woman who feels as I do about poetry and silence and beauty and the burning bush that portends holiness.

    I've never read Bukowski, but will now try to find one of his books at the library.

    As to those moments when the a door in the heart opens, I tend to think of them as the cracking open of the deep center of myself where Oneness dwells in Beauty. Then, too, I sigh for the pure joy of being human.

    Thank you.

  36. Dear Dee, Thank you so much for this. "The burning bush that portends holiness," is a beautiful phrase, and so aptly describes the experience of "poetry and silence and beauty."

    "Where Oneness dwells in Beauty" is a very uplifting thought.

    Thank You.

  37. Ah! Those crystalline moments that vibrate with recognition of life! :)

  38. Somewhere, there's a great poem in your Carver collection where Raymond is sitting at the feet of Charles. Things progress from there.

  39. Cletis, I read it for the first time shortly after I got the book. Re-read it two days ago and just now. It still makes me shake my head in wonder. What's so outstanding is how Carver captured Bukowski's speaking/writing style Perfectly.

  40. This topic speaks of the essence of our being. That 'burst of happiness', I guess, is the moment when we 'unconsciously, effortlessly' establish contact with the universal energy, the Divine Alchemist, God!!...Yes, that euphoric moment is blissfully beyond the reach of language and expression. That is just THAT:).

    Ah..Bukowski...I used to read a lot of his works. His poems are quite witty, pragmatic and portrays the hardcore realities of life, or at least of what he had been through during his days. Enjoyed reading this writing.

  41. C7, I absolutely agree. A "moment of divine consciousness," I believe it has been called. And yes, impossible to articulate because of its very nature.

    Thank you. :)