LUCY KIPPIST’S MAY ALMANAC
Hip, hip, hooray! By all accounts we should feel happier in May.
Derived from the Latin, “Maia” May means “greatest one”. Even this month’s flower, Lily of the Valley, is said to be a symbol of happy times ahead.
We could start by eating ourselves happier. Check out this season’s produce: pears, quince, persimmons, silverbeet, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and Chinese greens. The only one I’m stuck on is persmimmons*. I can’t imagine what you’d make with those.
Happiness can be such an elusive emotion. That’s probably why so many of us spend a large chunk of our lives either coveting or chasing it.
Some people envy what they consider to be the “increased” happiness of those around them. Others feel inspired by it. Then, of course, there’s a whole heap of other people who once they do find happiness, straight away begin wondering how they’ll ever manage to hold onto it.
I’ve always thought people are born with exactly the same capacity for happiness, it’s just that every person’s life path has a unique way of testing it. Even in the worst, most horrible times, happiness is there. “It” doesn’t disappear, but your ability to find it sometimes does.
I recently read a book about the Gyuto monks of Tibet, the Dalai Lama’s monks. Like most Buddhists, the Gyuto monks believe happiness is found by giving to others, without ever expecting anything in return. This is a beautiful sentiment, albeit difficult for most people operating in the normal world, but it’s something to aspire to all the same.
Many people feel happy when they spend time alone. The human relationship to solitude was the subject of a recent ABC Radio National piece for Life Matters, led by the host Natasha Mitchell and also Dr Elizabeth Shaw. It’s a very balanced discussion that’s worth the 15 minutes or so it takes to listen. As they’re quick to point out, solitude is not for everyone. Many people find it overwhelming or scary, particularly when they are forced to be alone, as a result of a break-up, move, health problem, or some other factor completely outside of their own control. Other people crave it. Like one of the callers who said for her, solitude is a vital part of her life and she can’t function without it.
Queen Victoria was one person who probably did not have much time for herself. Britain’s longest-reigning monarch (63 years) was queen by 18 and mother, alongside husband Albert, to nine children. Some clever person over at the British Royal Household has put together an online scrapbook of Queen Victoria’s life and her own Diamond Jubilee celebration, to coincide with the same celebration for the current Queen Elizabeth in July this year.
Queen Vic’s scrapbook is lovely to look at, full of photographs and scanned documents and you don’t even have to like royal stuff to enjoy it. In fact the best part about these documents is the social history it preserves. For example, Prince Albert’s memo on the royal children’s education and a terrific section on all the myriad innovations from the Victorian period. Like the telephone, and the beginnings of the British welfare system.
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