I see happy things everywhere. Orange butterflies clustered at the creek bed. The pink haze of morning time through my bedroom window. My sister’s laugh, my mother’s smile, or the cheerful banter between those I love. How lovely all of it is. How happy.
But sometimes I see sad things.
Like a house, empty and old, with windows that no longer have curtains. The chimney is smokeless. The porch is caving and bare. The yard is overgrown, while the garden is but thorns and thistles. Once upon a time, someone lived in such a house, and laughed within the walls, and loved in and out of the door now ajar. That’s sad. Very sad.
Sometimes I see a fallen tree. Maybe it shouldn’t be sad at all. Trees fall every day, don’t they? But a tree is used to standing tall and quiet and proud. A tree is used to making the world colorful in the autumn and lending shade in the summer and catching snowflakes in the winter. A tree is used to letting barefoot children climb up her branches, or couples carve in her bark, or weary travelers lean against her to rest. And now, after hundreds of years of living, she crashes and falls. Mossy, hollow, rotting—and all her beautiful pride is gone with her leaves. That’s sad. Very sad.
If you ever go to thrift stores, you might see a wedding dress hanging in one of the windows. Probably with a button or two missing. And tears in the lace. And a stain or rumple in the silky fabric, where the dress has been boxed and carted and hung in some grubby window. No one will probably buy such a thing. By this time it’s out of style and dirty. But the old dress was someone’s greatest decision or someone’s worst mistake. Either way, that’s sad. Very sad.
Every once in a while I see an old man eating alone. Usually in some corner table, or at a booth in the dim restaurant lights. He sips his coffee without sound. And nibbles away at his food. And glances, every once in a while, at the chair across from him—as if seeing the warm face no longer there. How lonely he must be without her, I think. How he must ache with the terrible emptiness. That’s sad. Very sad.
But happy would not be happy if sad were not sad. Houses must be left alone, trees must fall, weddings must be over, and old people must die. That’s the circle. The cycle. The way of it all.
The older I get, it seems, the more happiness I see. But every once in a while, when I see something old or broken or forgotten, my heart beats with a slight ache. And I think, as I pass by it with a sigh, That’s sad. Very sad.