Thursday, November 2, 2017


            Kim and I watched a Netflix movie called “Happy” that we may have seen before. (One of the advantages of growing old is that you can see movies again and still be surprised.) It turns out that there are a number of factors associated with happiness. I have written previously ( about the difference between happiness and joy, the latter being a deeper version of the former, but here I’ll ignore the distinction, as “Happy” was really dealing with joy.

            I can’t remember the four or five happy factors mentioned in the movie, or maybe it was six. Some had to do with having friends, helping others, and being part of something larger than the individual. The movie wasn’t so good that I want to see it again to check. But I do remember two factors that resonate with me: collaboration and flow. I’ll write about collaboration in a later post.

            “Flow” is what athletes feel when they are “in the zone,” operating when self-consciousness shuts down and the mind/body is operating automatically. It’s what some call “getting out of your head,” where being in your head means being self-critical, worried about how others might criticize you, or worrying about the future. Kim feels flow most often when she is creating her artwork, though she can also get there when looking out of the car window at the fall colors in Northern Michigan. I used to feel that flow when playing ice hockey, even as a goalie on a not-very-good team. In fact, I would feel so much flow that it sometimes didn’t bother me when the puck got by me for a score, which the records show happened fairly often.


Through a tangle of skaters the goalie
senses the shooter's rhythm and
attunes his ready backward slide.
Vision becomes a field of light,
ice, color, a sway of shirts
and blades, the crowdsurge--
and the puck arrives known through
legs and sticks.
                   My mind a web
as big and soft as my glove, I can
take any puck that comes.

The drummer lifts his band.  Time
sings through hands and feet--the bead
of his stick makes the Zildjian shimmer,
the left hand feeds snare riffs
to piano and sax, and the crisp
chhkk of the hats smiles to some
mischief from the bass.
                         My fingers
and calves want this tune to last
as long as the sky.

And here in this January day, the sun
calls me out to the park on my bike
with the wind, the slow river, the dog
tugging his leash, ice still framing
the path:  a dance of knees,
air, lungs, blue, wheels.

            Yes, flow happened when playing the drums in a jazz quintet, or just being outside. I wrote the above poem years ago, and I don’t remember how I got the dog to the park on my bike.

            These days I sometimes experience flow when writing, but only on the first draft, before the revising critical brain kicks in. That’s one reason why I usually wait a day or so before revising. I revise better when detached from the flow, and besides, I don’t want to shut down the happy flow feeling, even though it only exists in memory.

            This is the place in my post when I supply a gem of wisdom as to how my readers can lead happier lives. Sorry. But if I can experience flow while people a shooting hockey pucks in my direction, then anyone can do it. And yesterday I experienced flow while doing the dishes.

            Flow happens.

John Bayerl commented: A while ago Jann and I were driving on a two-lane road in the U. P. It was dark night, no moon. The car was on cruise at 55 miles per hour. There were no other cars on the road. We were returning from a pleasant visit with friends. Jann and I had achieved that comfortable silence where no words were needed and to speak would ruin the mood. At that time I distinctly remember having an awareness that we were not in a car driving down a highway, I visualized us floating  through the universe.  Alone. It was a most serene moment.  

Then I saw a deer in the ditch, and the mood was broken. 


1 comment:

  1. i really love how you keep everything really witty and still so organized which makes it all the more easier to understand and enjoy at the same time