Lately it's the little things.
The iced coffee at Wegmans is strong enough. (Iced coffee is never strong enough.)
My muscles relax in a hot bath. As steam rises I imagine my body offering whispers of thanks to the air.
With my husband I explore a park new to me. The path rises as it curves to the right. I can't see what's ahead, and I quicken my pace in anticipation. I am rewarded when the vista positively opens up around me: rolling hills with mountains beyond, and yes, even a red barn. On one side the park is fenced, bordering a farm, and as I walk along that side I hear, before seeing, five horses grazing close to the fence. They are blowing and snorting as they eat. They are so large, so majestic. I am delighted.
What is it about middle age? I do not seek out happiness as a goal or object and yet it comes to me in innumerable small ways, as long as my eyes are open and my heart is pliable.
And this, too: I am most likely to find happiness when I am outside, or at least out of the house. It's not as if my house is an unhappy place, but in it I am reminded of chores to do and things that need to be repaired or replaced. If being older has taught me anything it is to focus on people, not things.
Oh, there are plenty of times when I am annoyed, drained, or moody. I have not discovered some secret tunnel into joy. But if I can count a handful of happy moments throughout the course of a day, I am satisfied.
Twice in recent weeks I have been moved to tears by small gestures of kindness. "Mrs. Piazza, you're crying a little," observed a second grader, accidental witness to one such kindness. "Yes, but these are happy tears," I reassured him. He looked puzzled. I didn't try to explain. He will understand, but only after he has done a lot more living.