In my posting MELANCHOLIA, I discussed melancholy, a decidedly depressing subject. It was a very important posting for me, and I needed to write it. But who wants to read about sadness all the time? So this week I’ve decided to talk about happiness. Happiness in the extreme. A state of being where a person is giddy with excitement and enveloped in the moment of pure joy. Do you remember the last time you felt deliriously happy?
I’ve searched through PERSEPHONE IN HELL and can’t find a spot of that pure joy for my main character. It’s disturbing that in a story that chronicles two years in the life of a teenage girl, there is not one moment of complete happiness. There is anticipation (when Glory goes out on her first date ever with Billy.) There is sibling horseplay (when Sammy falls out of the closet like a mummy and scares Glory half to death.) There is a delicious sense of trickery (when Glory’s family steals away with buckets of contraband blueberries.) There is delight in young sisters’ play under the gentle pine trees. There is independence and solitude high in the maples branches.
But I can’t come up with one quote on undiluted pleasure. That delirious feeling of first kiss or first love. That sense that the rest of the world doesn’t matter, that only the exchange between lovers is real. Finding one’s soul mate and proclaiming before everyone who matters that the two of you will love each other forever. Or a first look at one’s newborn baby, or the pride one takes in watching a child grow up healthy and happy. Seeing your children off to college and on to independent lives. Getting the news that you got that job you wanted. Travel to Paris. Visiting Monet’s garden at Giverny and Mont Saint Michel in Normandy. Seeing the Coliseum in Rome and the Acropolis in Athens. Using binoculars to view the vast number of stars in the dark Atlantic sky from a deck in a rented home in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Driving to Florida to see the very last space shuttle lift off.
There can be utter joy in connecting with friends both new and old. In celebrating your shared collective remembrances and experiences. In rekindling passions, whether for old friends or loves, or for an interest that used to sweep you away. I remember the joy of singing, the absolute love I had for the stage and for every dimension of bringing a play, musical, or operetta to life before an audience. I recall the applause and how it made me feel alive and worthy. I recall standing behind the tympani, squeezed into a tiny stage at Jordan Hall in Boston while singing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Ode to Joy. My ears rang for days after, but the thrill of participating in that music in that venue was joy I will never forget. Singing Mozart’s Missa Solemnis, the most thrilling music ever written, at Symphony Hall. Handl’s Messiah at Trinity Church, a stunningly beautiful cathedral in my home town of Boston. I sang leading solo parts too: Gueneviere in Camelot, Fiona in Brigadoon, Yum Yum in The Mikado, and others. These were joyous occasions of the most delirious kind.
Right now, I’m feeling a little sorry for Glory. She hasn’t experienced any of these moments. There is nothing that helps her understand how much joy there is to be had in a difficult world. When it finally hits her, this feeling of delirious happiness, she may not know how to cope. She may spiral out of all control. She may not be able to handle the excitement. She may mess everything up.