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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Simple Pleasures in a Complicated World*

Johnstown, PA Tribune-Democrat
September 19, 2010
as "Enjoying the Simple Things"

Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey

We live in a complicated world, leading complicated lives, complicated by complicated events complicating our already complicated lives. Mired in such a complicated environment, the simple pleasures become even more pleasurable.

You know what I mean. Those activities that bequeath us those precious moments when we feel like life has taken us tenderly in its grasp and holds us close, warm, protected…and loved. We feel happy and content. And, for a few moments anyway, we can set aside a world that at times feels as if it’s spinning out of control, taking us, unwillingly, along for the ride.

There are some who do gardening. I heard a lady say once, “Yes, it’s hard work at times. But all that goes away when I can see that through planting and caring for a flower, I’ve brought life and color to a bare patch of dirt. Every morning after that, I can look out my window, see that flower and know that I made a difference.”

Our pets can bring us those moments, sharing their simple and unconditional love, especially that moment when we come through the door after a particularly bad day to be “embraced” with boundless joy by a simple being whose just delighted that we’re home. Walking the dog is another simple joy. It gets us out of the house and into the sunshine. We see and talk to our neighbors, while the fluffball gets the exercise, we enjoy the peace and solace of a summer’s evening.

For me, no such list would be complete without a motorcycle ride. Earlier this week, I had that moment on the ride back from work. The sun was out, the temperature was just right. The air, as it flowed past, had just enough of a chill to remind me that fall, my favorite time of year, was on the way. Morning rides as well touch the soul. Fog lying in the valleys becomes common this time of year, but that moment when I’m riding north on 219 and I round that corner at the top of 12-Mile Hill. Ahead lies Scalp Hill and in between, a sea of white fog lit brightly by the rising sun.

Writing is another place where I can find that perfect moment. Often times, it can be a struggle. But once in awhile, emotion, memory, and expression arrive in perfect synch; and the words pour out effortlessly. As frustrating as it is when I can’t fully express what I feel, it is that quiet joy that happens when everything clicks that makes the moment.

What could be better than time spent with friends at the end of a hard work day, relaxing, laughing, sharing stories, some of which may actually be true. In those moments, we realize deep inside that one of the most valuable parts of being human is having friends.

That warm smile from the one we love, sometimes randomly shared across a dinner table or a living room. Perhaps just lying on the couch together watching television. The happy chaos of a family together in one house. The peace of a perfectly mowed lawn. A freshly painted wall. Any project we undertake that, when finished, we can look at with quiet pride: “Yeah, I did that.”

These are the things that remind us that in life, it’s not the big things that keep us going. It’s the small, the simple, the quiet; the everyday stuff we so often take for granted that is the heart of the happiness of life. We don’t often take note of those moments, but perhaps we should pause during those times, inscribing in our memory the elements of that moment; the wallpaper and fixtures of that time and place that come together to create that simple pleasure.

You don’t need a big party to find happiness.

Perhaps all you need is a hug from your grandchild.
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