A Little Happier: Do You Have an Image or Memory that Always Makes You Happier?

In The Happiness Project — or perhaps it’s in Happier at Home — I write about having an “area of refuge.”

Lately, I’ve been re-reading all of Willa Cather’s outstanding novels, and in O Pioneers! I came across a beautiful description of a moment that became an area of refuge for Alexandra and Emil.

This passage is so beautiful…it brings tears to my eyes every time. And if you read the novel, you realize even more deeply the significance of this memory for Alexandra.

I especially love it because of the Nebraska connection — both my parents were raised in North Platte.

Check out Yogi Tea. When it comes to enjoying life, little moments — like drinking a delicious cup of tea — can make a big difference.

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  • Linda Sue Brown

    This is refuge about the duck. Age and Change the duck did not know!

  • Jess

    Love Willa Cather, and this quote from My Antonia has always been a favorite:

    “I kept as still as I could. Nothing happened. I did not expect anything to happen. I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy.”

    • gretchenrubin

      I LOVE Willa Cather.

  • Mimi Gregor

    This passage made me tear up as well. So beautiful!

    I think that the mental image that does it for me was of a solitary rose growing over the top of a run-down wooden fence, as if peeking over it. The rose — a Peace rose — was in full bloom and seemed exceptionally beautiful juxtaposed against such mundane surroundings. A shaft of sunlight fell upon the rose and only the rose, as if commanding me to pay attention to it as I walked through the neighborhood. And I did. It seemed to glow with an inner light. A couple weeks later, the edge of a hurricane blew all the petals away, and now it seems that even the bush no longer exists, as I haven’t seen any more blooms peeking over that fence.

    It was a number of years ago that I saw this rose, and it still remains the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, and I tear up at its memory.

    • gretchenrubin


  • Chris

    A memory that always makes me happy is from my childhood, 3rd grade to be exact. I was walking home from the bus stop and my dad was sitting on the stoop with a neighbor. I asked my neighbor is she got Tracy, her daughter, a new bike. She said yes and I told her it was a nice bike. It was a deep blue with a sparkling silver banana seat with a sissy bar and a racing type tire in the back – I loved it!! My dad said to sit on it and take it for a ride to see how it feels. I said no, Tracy should be the first to ride it. Tracy’s mom said she wouldn’t be home for awhile and insisted that I try it, so I did, it was awesome!! I parked the bike and said it rides really nice and that Tracy will love it!! I told my dad I would love to have a bike like that so he said, good because it is yours!! I was SO excited and happy!! I couldn’t believe it was mine and to this very day, some 40 years plus later, when I think of that day it makes me very happy and my eyes fill up with tears. It is a very fond memory I have of my dad who passed away over 23 years ago.