Taking a Break

April 26, 2022

Due to a family health emergency, I’m taking a break from Catching Happiness. Thank you for your understanding.

Adrienne Su

The Drinking of Tea

April 15, 2022

Photo by Sixteen Miles Out on Unsplash

In honor of National Poetry Month, today’s post is a poem courtesy of American Life in Poetry.

Introduction by Kwame Dawes: Sometimes a poem achieves its beauty by a certain fixation on a small detail that is not burdened with the need to be ​“important”. Here, in ​“Oolong”, Adrienne Su creates her own tea ritual, a meditative moment to reflect on the ordinary, the quotidian. Tea and the drinking of tea, treated to such careful study, become a way to think of life as it moves from strong to weak and back again.


From strong to weak, a single cup
can carry me from waking up
to the mild hush of the bedtime snack.
Fresh hot water brings it back
from depletion, or threat of such.

What ancient genius gained so much
from roasting pieces of a shrub?
I watch it change, as daylight flags,
from strong to weak,

ending with the faded touch
of flavor that was once robust.
faintness helps the mind relax,
but part of me remains perplexed
that every day unfurls as it must,
from strong to weak.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2021 by Adrienne Su, “Oolong” from Peach State, (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2021) Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2021 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.


12 Minutes in Heaven, or an Unexpected Simple Pleasure

April 08, 2022

New property--Tank is on the left

The barn where I board recently moved to a larger property a few miles away from the original location. It’s a couple of minutes farther from my house, but the main road leading there is a straight highway with light enough traffic that I can use cruise control most days. 

This is my version of a commute.

An unexpected simple pleasure

I’ve spent 18 years driving back and forth to barns, and to my surprise, these drives have become simple pleasures in and of themselves. I generally don’t enjoy driving, but this road is so well known to me that it’s not stressful to drive it. There’s not a lot of traffic, I won’t get lost, or have no place to park when I arrive at my destination. I’m going somewhere I love.

I listen to music or an audio book, and watch the sky, admiring the clouds (or wondering if it’ll rain), and looking for rainbows.

My mind sometimes gets busy when I slide behind the steering wheel, but it becomes especially active when I drive to the barn. It’s like all the thoughts I’ve been holding at bay while otherwise occupied flood my mind when my guard is down. This can be both good and bad.

I often think over problems I’d like to solve, or ponder a tricky passage of writing. Sometimes it’s more like asking my subconscious mind to get to work while I’m at the barn and completely absorbed—“Here’s the problem, get back to me with the answer!” Sometimes the break produces solutions, sometimes not.

Somehow, driving amplifies my emotions. During hard times I’ve pulled to the side of the road to cry. During happier ones, I’ve joyfully belted out show tunes and other favorites, singing along to the radio or to some of my collected music. I often feel gratitude while driving—for the privilege of having my horse, and lately for having a reliable vehicle and money for gas.

“What’s Next Syndrome”
In the rest of my life, I’m often in a hurry, and want to Be There Already. I suffer from “What’s Next Syndrome,” always impatient to go on to what’s next instead of embracing now. In the car, I’m in my own private world—no one can ask me questions or make demands. There’s nothing for me to do except what I’m already doing: driving. (See my essay “Driving I-5 in the USA” for similar reflections.) That 12-minute drive to and from the barn allows me to transition from work to play and back again, and I’m letting myself enjoy it!

What’s an unexpected thing in your life that makes you happy? 

National Poetry Month

The Solace of Poetry

April 01, 2022

Photo by Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash

April is National Poetry Month in the U.S., and almost every year I write a blog post to promote it. Why? Because since my teens, reading poetry has brought both happiness and solace—a simple pleasure I like to share here on Catching Happiness. 

And also I need the reminder to include more poetry in my reading life. I usually read one or two books of poetry each year, and I still subscribe to a weekly email from American Life in Poetry (see link below), but National Poetry Month reminds me to read more.

For the poetry curious

If you’re curious about poetry, or would like to get back to reading it, here are a few easy ways to get started:

Sign up for Poem-a-Day here

If a poem a day is too much, subscribe to American Life in Poetry’s once-a-week poem newsletter. 

Listen to the Poetry Foundation’s Poetry Off the Shelf podcast.

Enjoy some Spring Poems—classic and contemporary poems to celebrate the advent of spring. 

Author and blogger Modern Mrs. Darcy (Anne Bogel) has written several posts on poetry, including this one. You might also enjoy hearing her discussion of poetry with her friend and poet Dave Harrity on Episode 75 of What Should I Read Next?

Check my post “It’s National Poetry Month—No Foolin’” for links to apps and other poetry resources.

And for anyone whose interest in the art and culture of Ukraine has been piqued, here are two poets whose work I’ve recently come across: Ilya Kaminsky (That Map of Bone and Opened Valves) and Serhiy Zhadan (read two of his poems here).

If you’re a poetry lover, what are your favorite ways to experience poetry?

Check in

First Quarter Check-In

March 25, 2022

Photo by Sixteen Miles Out on Unsplash

I hate to break it to you, but 2022 is one quarter of the way done…or it will be next week.

Time seems to have picked up its pace, racing forward with no regard to my readiness for it to be the end of March and Almost Summer (in Florida we have two seasons: Summer and Almost Summer). While I’m a little surprised to find myself teetering on the verge of April, the first three months of the year haven’t been all bad, despite bouts of depression and continued horror around the world. This year, I’m going to try something new: reviewing both my word of the year and my goals every quarter. Previously, I’ve been much more haphazard about the review process.

The year so far

I’ve taken to heart what I mentioned in “First Thoughts for 2022”: “I want a year of ease and serendipity and settling into the spaces of my life in a way that feels organic instead of molded to fit arbitrary goals I set for myself.” I’ve continued to concentrate on my word of the year, simpler. Since I didn’t set a big bunch of goals at the beginning of the year, I don’t feel bad about not having a long list of shiny accomplishments checked off.

The thing I’ve noticed most is that so far this year, I have been operating more slowly and mindfully. I catch myself rushing, and slow down. I single task more often. I’m becoming more realistic about what I can accomplish in a day. This is a valuable mindset shift that’s starting to feel more natural. 

A few noteworthy accomplishments:

  • Continued to add slips of paper to my Happiness Jar.
  • Read two books related to my exploration of simpler (The Power of Less, by Leo Babauta and Do Less, by Kate Northrup). Next up, Digital Minimalism, by Cal Newport.
  • Moved Tank to new accommodations. My entire boarding barn relocated to a new, larger property this week. A huge undertaking for the owner, and a bit of upheaval in my settled routine, but the property is great and it will be a positive move. (Tank is happy, so I’m happy.)
  • Continued taking a couple of online courses, one personal and one related to blogging.

Coming attractions

During the next three months, I plan to continue to take small steps toward reenergizing my writing. I’m going to start planning a trip to California to see family. And I’ll continue some cleaning and organizing projects around my house.

I’m also preparing to take an internet break in April (inspired by David from Raptitude, who wrote about taking an internet break here, and about how it went hereI’ll write more about this when I’m just about to do it).

I’m far too tied to my devices—laptop, tablet, phone. A couple of weeks ago, my (newish) laptop’s internal fan died, and I had to use my old (slow and glitchy) laptop to complete some work until we could fix the new one. I couldn’t go even one day without a computer. It’s true that most of my work uses a computer, whether for research, connection, or actual writing, but I also read quite a few blogs and listen to a couple of podcasts on a semi-regular basis. I’ve been scrolling Instagram nightly after dinner while we’re watching something mindless on TV. I try to maintain one day a week where I don’t go to the computer, but I don’t always manage that. I find that when I have a few minutes, I jump online to “catch up” on blog reading or emails. There are other better ways to spend time.

As I continue to learn what simpler means to me, I feel that it’s about “less, but better.” About going deeper into things that matter rather than trying to do or be All the Things. About slowing down enough to feel content. So far, I’m pleased with my word of the year choice, and after some rough days, I’m feeling slightly more positive overall. Baby steps, one day at a time. Learning to live with hard things and still function. I’m looking forward to the second quarter of 2022. 

How is your year progressing so far? Any surprises?