Story telling from Australia
What makes a life worth living? I’m half way through Hugh Mackay’s thought-provoking book, The Good Life, and he keeps coming back to the notion of happiness. Controversially, Mackay thinks happiness is overrated.
“To seek it, to desire it, to yearn for it is to miss it. It’s not like money, food, power or status: you don’t get it by going after it. When it comes to you, that’s a bonus all the more welcome for being unexpected. But unremitting happiness is not the mark of a life well lived – a good life – any more than unremitting sadness is.”
I haven’t reached the chapter yet where I find out what does make a good life, but Mackay is pretty clear on what doesn’t – status, success and the endless focus on self.
According to Hugh Mackay we have an unhealthy obsession with happiness, when we experience a myriad other emotions every day. I’m with him on that one. This week I’ve gone from glum to moody at the looming prospect of moving, followed by anxious, irritated, frustrated, exhausted and finally, much to my surprise, happy.
It goes back to autumn. “Soak the bales in water and leave them in the sun for a few days,” said the man from Menindee as he offloaded three bales of straw from the back of his ute. “That will kill off any seeds.”
I stored the bales in the shed over winter and promptly forgot his advice. Six weeks ago the temperature in Broken Hill soared to 36 degrees, prompting me to spread a liberal mulch of straw across the entire garden. Yes, there was the odd fluffy seed head but so what? I wasn’t going to waste straw I’d bought (cheaply) off the back of a ute.
Four weeks later the consequences of my thrift were impossible to ignore, and two weeks after that the vegetable patch was sprouting a veritable paddock of lush growth, spurred on by plant food and seaweed solution. There was nothing for it but to spend hours scraping off the straw. I was irritated that I had ignored the farmer’s advice, frustrated by the extra work and with mounting fury I pinched out flourishing shoots of grass or wheat or whatever had germinated in all the hard-to-reach places between rows of beetroot, cabbage and strawberries. ‘I haven’t got time for this,’ I grumbled.
I stomped to the garden centre at the end of William Street for three bales of costly sugar cane mulch and spent another hour I could ill afford spreading thick layers across the vegetable beds. ‘The next tenants had better like gardening,’ I muttered darkly.
Then I stood back and surveyed the flourishing vegetable patch, by now weed-free and softly coated in sugar cane mulch. I felt exhausted. And you know what? I also felt happy.
“What do we live for if not to make the world less difficult for each other?” asked George Eliot.
Whoever the new tenants might be, at least they’ll have a weed-free garden.