Some of you may recall that I walked across northern England with a couple of girlfriends last summer. Before we left, I gave each of my walking partners matching bracelets so that if we got separated in a crowd our teachers could find us.
I know! Genius!
Anyway, as soon as I returned home I took that bracelet off, tucked it away in my jewelry box, and forgot all about it. Until a few weeks ago.
That’s when I started thinking about the trip and how uncomplicated my life felt as I walked from one coast to the other. All I had to do was get up each morning, trek 15 miles while listening to my girlfriends tell funny stories, eat dinner in a pub and read The Two Towers (again) before falling asleep in a bed someone else had made.
I didn’t have to clean out the litter box or respond to emails or wash sheets. I didn’t have to attend (ugh) meetings or pull weeds or go grocery shopping. I didn’t have to pay bills or organize closets or figure out something (besides pasta) to fix for a vegetarian son. I didn’t have to worry about deadlines.
In fact, I didn’t have to worry about anything at all.
And also, why can’t my life feel like that all the time?
So here’s what I did. I fished that bracelet out of the jewelry box and put it back on just so I could remember the salad days.
Pop quiz! Who coined the phrase “salad days”? Was it a) H.I. McDonough in “Raising Arizona” or b) William Shakespeare?
Anyway. My mom noticed the bracelet when we were in St. George together last week, eating rhubarb pie at Croshaw’s. She asked about it, so I told her all about the salad days and how much I was missing them.
That’s when her jaw dropped. In fact, it didn’t just drop. It fell straight off her face. Boom! Right there in the middle of the pie store.
“But didn’t it rain the whole time you were there?” she asked.
And wasn’t it real Old Testament-type rain, thus causing British citizens everywhere to build arks for pairs of horses and hounds and foxes and young royals with riding crops?
And weren’t we slogging through muddy cow pastures while it rained? And didn’t my friend Cynthia sink so deep in the mud one day that she lost her right shoe? And weren’t we afraid we might all get sucked into a giant mud hole and end up as bog bodies? Bog bodies with no shoes, thereby causing future archaeologists to wonder why people went shoe-less in cow pastures in the year of our Lord 2012?
And also what about the sheep? Weren’t we harassed by roving sheep gangs?
“At least that’s what you told me when you got home last summer,” my mom said.
OK. My jaw-less mother had a point. The closer I was to the actual experience, the more I remembered the downsides of the Great Walk. The rain. The mud. The sheep thugs with yellow eyeballs. But now? Five months later, I only remember the salad.
(Which reminds me. The correct answer to the pop quiz is “Shakespeare.” Check out the play “Antony and Cleopatra” if you don’t believe me.)
Anyway. It’s human nature to think the past and future have more to offer in the way of happiness than the present moment, which isn’t totally true, of course.
Even when things are grim, there’s always something to value. Right here. Right now.
And I’m wearing the bracelet to remind me of that fact daily.
Ann Cannon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/anncannontrib.