“Where’s your happy place?” I am asked today.

Of course my answer is, “Right here, right now at my little retreat in New Hampshire.”

It's Real Here

Here, Now

And yet, if you read my journal over the past week since I’ve been here, you’ll see that “happy” does not always apply.

Oh, there are times of unspeakable joy, joy that God has even made such a place — and such colors! And joy that this is my little plot of land and that I can spend time here and write. Happy dance!

Still, it does seem that every time I get here, something dreadful happens. Mass shootings are common, landslides and earthquakes, young black kids being shot dead in the street, Robin Williams ending his life. This week, in addition to yet another mass shooting (thank you, NRA), two dear friends of mine lost their beloved nephew: A cheerful, promising twenty-two year old goes to bed and never wakes up.

Really, God?

I think the impact of such shocks and losses is exacerbated when I’m alone up here. I have friends that I see in town, and wonderful neighbors who welcome me into their families and often ask me to dinner. But mostly I’m alone, and I like it that way. I consider it my reward for being an introvert called to a very extroverted lifestyle. It’s my escape.

I can spend more time praying and meditating and reading spiritual literature when I’m here, and I’m better at living in the present moment than I am at home. Perhaps that’s why I feel more intensely, the happy and the sad. I’m more connected with God and with my true self and my true feelings.

Here, now, me.

But also, there, then, them.

Never Really Alone

As much as I embrace the present moment here, I am also immersed in the past, surrounded by ghosts. I’ve spent summer days here all my life, and the house is full of echoes and spirits, laughter and tears.

Of my grandmother, who bought the house in 1940 after her husband died in a dreadful fire at sea; of my Mom and Aunt Val, who painted and repaired and cherished this old place until they passed on; of tweedy uncles smelling of pipe tobacco and patronizing their sweet-smelling wives all dusty with face powder; of my cousin Averil who grew up in the house, died at fifty, and is buried under the apple tree out back.

And now of my brother Biff, whose active imagination bubbled over in this place, like a fine champagne released from its bottle. So many memories of him decked out in safari hats or top hats, red velvet smoking jackets or army uniforms, brandishing swords or walking sticks or African spears, and spouting Britishisms. One-of-a-kind Biff who could always, always make me laugh.



Always Room For Laughter

The memories can make me  happy, but there’s an undercurrent of grief in this place. I’ve always felt it. The fellow who lived here in the 1700s was kicked in the head by a cow and died. I think he still roams around, too.

My Mom stopped wanting to come here when she got old. Too sad, she said. But she didn’t like being alone — I do. I just have to take care of myself. When I get depressed or anxious (a remnant of Biff-grief that’s gradually lessening), I go out for a walk, or I light a fire and read one of the dusty antique books shoved into every nook and cranny of this house.

Life is real here; I’m real here. Happy and sad, sometimes both at the same time.

It’s surely a happy place when my nephew arrives with his noisy kids, which is happening this weekend. I expect there will be safari hats and African spears and Britishisms, because life goes on, silliness seems to be genetic, and this old house always has room for laughter.


So – where is YOUR happy place? Check out some others at this week’s photo challenge.


Shift Your Perspective: The Best Laid Plans…


The car is packed, and I’m ready to go. Depressed, but ready. I just have to suck it up, and get on the road. I always feel this way when I close up my little New England house for the winter.

This was a good trip. I did a lot of writing, although it wasn’t necessarily what I had planned to write. But as they say, the best laid plans…

With a ten-hour drive ahead, I don’t have much time for journaling. I’m making good time with my to-do lists, and it’s only 7:30 a.m. All that’s left is to turn off the water and catch the cats. They’re usually behind the sofa bed. Peace out-

You’re walking funny this morning. Faster, like something’s up. Plus, you are talking out loud and we creatures of fur are not in the same space with you. You do not have the shiny black noise-maker in your paw, either. Who are you talking to? Something is different.

A zipper! I’d better make myself scarce. Last time you found me behind the sleeping place; where to go?

I’m back, ticked off because I only had thirty minutes scheduled to catch the cats, and I can’t find Eliza Bean. Maya was behind the sofa bed, but Eliza seems to have vanished. She’s too big to fit behind the stove where she used to go when she was a kitten, and I know she’s not behind the laundry hamper because I can always see her tail.

Weird. Well, it will only delay me more if I write – I was just frustrated and decided to vent.

Eliza Bean

Eliza Bean

I can’t fit behind the big box that gets hot anymore. Besides, you know that place. And the place you put the stinky skins you shed is too small; my tail sticks out.

 I am not letting you put me in that Mover. I feel sick in there, and there’s no room to stretch and no sunshine to nap in. You know we don’t like it, you know it. I hear you coming – where shall I go?

Hey! What’s in here? Brmmpp?


I cannot believe this. Eliza has managed to pull down a panel the plumber left leaning against the upstairs bathroom wall, and she’s gotten inside the wall and underneath the bathtub. I can’t see her, but I know she’s in there. Shit. What am I going to do?

Perfect…. It’s nice and dark. Mew. Spider webs.

Ouch! What’s that awful noise? My ears hurt. Are you doing that? You are hurting my ears! Ouch, my foot! I’d better go farther back here. Stop! Oh, you are going to be very sorry for this.

I’ve tried blasting rock music, banging on the bathtub, thrashing around with a broom. She’s not budging. This is crazy. It’s noon already. I’m going to kill her. I ought to board her up in there and leave her.

Oh now you have your sweet voice. The one when you want me on your lap. No, I don’t want treats. No, I don’t want food. I am not coming out. This puffy stuff in the walls is soft, and it’s still a little warm over the place of fire. I will have a nap. We will all just stay here for the afternoon until I am ready. I know you won’t leave me.

The old house has seen a lot in 225 years. Some of its favorite dramas involve this family and its felines.

Quiet Hills

Quiet Hills

In the 1950s, Grandmother’s white cat, Feather, played the hiding game and spent a whole day tucked behind the books on the living room shelf.

Then there was the one called Aunt Valerie, whose cat hid out in the woodshed and got sprayed by a skunk. Thirty years later, the house can still sense the smell.

And there was this one’s mother with her orange tabby, Triscuit, who slipped into the basement crawl space and delayed their trip home for two days.

Orange Tabby sleeping

The house thinks this one wouldn’t be so angry if she would only remember that these escapades turn into favorite family stories.


Yawn. It’s getting dark and chilly in here. I think I’ll go down now. I wonder if you’ve got any Trout Feast. I think I’d like the kind with gravy.


This post is in response to the WordPress weekly writing challenge: Shift Your Perspective, encouraging bloggers to write from different points of view. It’s first person, second cat, and third house.

Weekly Writing Challenge: Shift Your Perspective | The Daily Post.

%d bloggers like this: