golden

Golden. adjective. The color of late summer, of the minutes before sunset, of serendipity.

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We’ve been eating peaches all weekend: they are golden rimmed in red, edible hot sun and sweet rain. A pie turns to juice in our mouths and disappears. The white fan moves the evening air, all humidity and laughter. The brothers who eat and tease, the dad who listens, the mom who sasses, the other family who color the conversation, sit around scratched-up wood tables. They tell stories about people I don’t know, of wedding crashing 50 years ago. Their words mix with the lake water in my hair and the smell of piecrust, simmering into joy.

The twenty-somethings and moms gather on the lawn, yoga mats sprawled. The leader, in hot pink leggings, intones “inhale, up dog; exhale, down dog.” I lose my breath, and my Warrior One wobbles when she nears. “Left hip down, right hip forward,” and I shift, muscles stabilizing. I hear “good adjustment” and wonder if it’s for me, the girl who knows no one and feels too young, too tall, too much into cardio for this. But still I try. When I lay in stilled savasana, breath slow, eyes closed, tongue dropped from the roof of my mouth, golden sunlight fills my palms.

The pictures blur, twenty-two candles and golden glow. We eat cupcakes, extra frosting on hand, even though we’ve had dessert twice already. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this birthday, the first without my family around the table and my sister’s flourless chocolate cake. But I am sandwiched between two friends who planned an evening of surprises, with breadsticks and minions and girlish chatter. Though I’d forgotten to invite it, love joined the party.

It’s too late. I’m the only one who ever mentions it. I yawn. I don’t know how he does it, the boy a time zone ahead of me. Someone finally clicks and the call ends. Though this is hard, this communication through computer, I glow golden as I brush my teeth. He cares what I think, even when my words are scrambled. He loves me. He admits it in front of his roommates.

The professor in the movie, wearing a beanie and jeans, claims, “We should concern ourselves, not so much with the pursuit of happiness, but with the happiness of pursuit.” Hector, the psychiatrist on an international quest for happiness, finds it in a flight home. When he asks the stewardess if the plane can go any faster, his face is golden, lit with love. I know where I’d fly for happiness, given the chance. But apparently happiness doesn’t take miles of travel to find. I don’t know exactly what I’m pursuing. But I want to be surprised by happiness here. I think I’m learning how.

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