BEYOND THE SMILE
HAPPY CITY DENVER
ART FOR THE PEOPLE MAY 18 â€“ JUNE 30, 2018
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Happy City: Art for the People is a six-week, citywide art intervention with the purpose of breaking down personal, emotional and social barriers, while nurturing individual and collective well-being.
Happiness: A Long View by Deanne Gertner
Hey Smiley by Matthew Hoffman
Happiness for Sale by Marsha Mack
The Neuroscience of Happiness: Confessions of a Depressed Scientist by Nicole Garneau, PhD.
Godding by Ellin Rosenthal
A Bow to the Pacific by Jonathan White
The Happy Place by Emily Vizzo
A Happy Camper by Kurt Caswell
Sporting smiles, Samuel Speedily Skateboarded Somewhere Spectacular by Noah Larson
It Isn’t Magic by Kimberly McClintock
The Front Porch Project by Amy Lopez, PhD, LCSW
Peak Happiness by Jethro Black
Merry Band of Misfits by Nichol Burns
Caring for the City’s Caretakers: Comprehensive Employee Support & Wellness at the Denver Department of Public
Cosmic Woman Plants by Sheree Brown
444 by Julie Farkas
Safety by Emily Lauck
Happy by Chloe Toler
The Feeling of Happiness by Ava Haase
Lost in a World by Deven Lucero
Untitled by Jonas Rosenthal
Theory of Happiness by Alison Child
Your Dream (part 1) by Mathias Svalina
Your Dream (part 2) by Mathias Svalina
Paws for Happiness by Deanne Gertner
Happy Meals by Deanne Gertner
Tomato-Colored Glasses by Nash Garton
In addition to the art installations and artist contributions, Happy City offers extensive programming to engage the community.
Happy Reading and Listening Lists by the Denver Public Library
On view May 18 through June 30, 2018
Happy Poem Happy Home Pushing Carts Under Your Nose by Molina Speaks
How to Be Happy (according to your zodiac sign) by Luke Dani Blue
Symposium by John Cotter and Kevin Caron
The project brings together more than 10 artists’ perspectives to address ideas of happiness and community wellness, in order to imagine a more connected society. The installation sites are located throughout Denver, and include streets, alleyways, billboards, video screens, and Union Station, among others. The project is initiated by British artist Stuart Semple and pays homage to Canadian author Charles Montgomery’s influential publication “Happy City.” Montgomery’s book questions the intersection between urban design and the science of happiness. In response, Happy City: Art for the People provides unexpected art experiences in public spaces with the hope of inciting curiosity and encouraging togetherness. Overall, the project invokes the question – can a city be happy? Happy City: Art for the People is produced by The Denver Theatre District with artistic direction by Black Cube and is a result of collaboration among a number of funding partners, including Bonfils-Stanton Foundation, Community First Foundation, Denver Arts & Venues, Downtown Denver Business Improvement District, Downtown Denver Partnership, McWHINNEY, P.S. You Are Here, Sage Hospitality, and VISIT DENVER.
Chinn Wang, Happiness Crest
CONTRIBUTORS Alison Child is a member of Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop Young Author’s Collective, a group of talented, word-obsessed high school writers dedicated to experimenting with new creative forms, collaborating with arts organizations, and writing. Amy Lopez PhD, LCSW, is a clinician at the University of Colorado Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Depression Center, where she studies social presence and happiness, and provides individual, family, and group therapy for a variety of mental health conditions. She is the author of Search for Awesome: Ten Experiments in the Quest for Happiness and the upcoming workbook, Finding a Path, a choose-your-own-adventure guide to exploring happiness. Ava Haase is a fourth grader at Pennington Elementary School in Jefferson County. Pennington is one of Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop’s Young Writers Program which offers creative writing workshops in public and private schools as well as juvenile residential treatment centers throughout the Denver metro area. Alison Preston leads the Pennington workshops. Chloe Toler is a sixth grader at Pennington Elementary School in Jefferson County. Pennington is one of Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop’s Young Writers Program which offers creative writing workshops in public and private schools as well as juvenile residential treatment centers throughout the Denver metro area. Alison Preston leads the Pennington workshops.
the founding editor at the review site Open Letters Monthly and has published critical work in Sculpture, Bookforum, Brooklyn Rail, and Poetry. His first novel Under the Small Lights appeared in 2010 from Miami University Press. Westword and 3rd bed have published his comics. Jonas Rosenthal is a member of Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop Young Author’s Collective, a group of talented, word-obsessed high school writers dedicated to experimenting with new creative forms, collaborating with arts organizations, and writing. Jonathan White is a writer, sailor, and surfer. He’s logged more than a hundred thousand miles on the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and surfed all over the world. He is the founder and former director of the Resource Institute, a nonprofit education organization based in Seattle, WA that sponsors weeklong seminars aboard the schooner Crusader. His book Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean takes readers across the globe and has won the National Outdoor Book Award and Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Annual Book Award. Kevin Caron is one of four artists featured in the graphic novel Casting Bones. His work for Moonstone Books includes Sheena: Return of the Jaguar Men, Caption Action/Honey West/ Our Man Flint: Danger-A-Go-Go. His work has also appeared in the three 24 Hour Comics collections, 3rd bed, and trading card packs for Indiana Jones Masterpieces and Star Wars: Galaxy IV. He lives in Lafayette with his wife, sculptor Katie Caron, and their daughter. Kimberly McClintock is a poet, essayist, and visual artist from New Jersey who has made Colorado her home for two decades. She has ridden her motorcycle (a BMW K1600) from Colorado to both coasts and back, side cases packed with art supplies and books.
Deanne Gertner, a Colorado native, is a writer, editor, arts critic, and curator. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and an undergraduate degree from Regis University. Her work has been published in Quaint Magazine, Scintilla Magazine, and Daily Serving.
Kurt Caswell’s newest book is Getting to Grey Owl: Journeys on Four Continents. He teaches writing and literature in the Honors College at Texas Tech University and lives in Lubbock, TX.
Denver Art Museum is an educational, nonprofit resource that sparks creative thinking and expression through transformative experiences with art. Its holdings reflect the city and region – and provide invaluable ways for the community to learn about cultures from around the world.
Luke Dani Blue is a horoscope writer, astrologer, editor, creative writing teacher, and author who has lived throughout North America and currently resides in the Canadian prairies. Blue’s work was a finalist for the 2017 American Short Fiction Prize, won the 2015 Nelligan Prize, and earned a spot on the most distinguished list by the 2016 Best American Short Stories.
Denver Public Library connects people with information, ideas, and experiences to provide enjoyment, enrich lives, and strengthen our community. Deven Lucero is a fourth grader at Pennington Elementary School in Jefferson County. Pennington is one of Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop’s Young Writers Program which offers creative writing workshops in public and private schools as well as juvenile residential treatment centers throughout the Denver metro area. Alison Preston leads the Pennington workshops. Ellin Rosenthal is a journalist, fundraiser, teacher, writer, editor, and coach. Her ghostwriting studio helps others get their stories out into the world. Since 2010, Ellin and her husband have hosted Gilpin Street House Concerts in their home, bringing music lovers and artists together in an intimate environment. Emily Lauck serves as the Manager of Performance Improvement for the Denver Department of Public Safety where she identifies and supports strategic planning, performance metric development, and policy/process improvements. The Department of Safety is comprised of seven public agencies which includes: 911 Communications Center, Fire Department, Police Department, Sheriff Department, Electronic Monitoring, Juvenile Intervention and Diversion, and Pretrial Services. Emily Vizzo is a poet, essayist, and novelist who writes about being alive in the world, She believes in people and places. As writer, editor, and educator, her work has appeared in FIELD, Blackbird, jubilat, North American Review, The Los Angeles Times, Next American City and other publications. She previously covered Congress for the Scripps Howard News Service in Washington, D.C., and has written extensively on topics including the San Diego biotech industry, corporate social justice, surf, the arts, education, business, and health. J.M. Farkas is a poet, erasurist, former high school teacher, dental school dropout, and young adult novelist. Her book, Be Brave, is the first in a series of erasures that she puts a feminist, revisionist twist on classic literature. Farkas transforms Beowulf into a poetic pep talk and feisty guide for the brokenhearted that is both irreverent and moving. Jethro Black is a client of Urban Peak, the only nonprofit organization in Denver that provides a full convergence of services for youth ages 15 through 24 experiencing homelessness or at imminent risk of becoming homeless. Urban Peak provides free services to youth including an overnight shelter, a daytime drop-in center, street outreach, education and employment programming, and supportive housing. John Cotter graduated from Emerson’s Creative Writing program on a performing arts scholarship and Harvard with a master’s degree in English and American literature. He is
Mathias Svalina is the author of five books including Destruction Myth, Wastoid, and the recently released The Wine-Dark Sea. He is an editor for the small press Octopus Books. Since 2014, Svalina has run the Dream Delivery Service, in which he writes dreams every day and delivers them by hand before dawn to subscribers within a four-mile radius of his home base and by mail to the others. Molina Speaks is an American artist, poet, musician, social entrepreneur, and human bridge. He is a living word architect, Mestizo Futurist, live poetic scribe, arts educator, filmmaker, and producer. He has released dozens of music and poetry volumes. He is the co-founder and co-host of the podcast Brown Genius. 2018 marks the debut of his first film, Root. Nash Garton grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico and has been living and working in Denver since 2012. He graduated from the University of Delaware with a BA in art conservation. He has over 8 years of professional, museum-quality framing, shipping, and installation experience. He currently works with Metropolitan Framing, and grows heirloom tomatoes in his backyard. Nichol Burns was a client of Urban Peak, the only nonprofit organization in Denver that provides a full convergence of services for youth ages 15 through 24 experiencing homelessness or at imminent risk of becoming homeless. Urban Peak provides free services to youth including an overnight shelter, a daytime drop-in center, street outreach, education and employment programming, and supportive housing. Nicole Garneau, PhD. is a taste scientist and motivational speaker. Her formal training in genetics led her to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science where she serves as the Curator of Human Health and directs the Genetics Taste Lab. She is also the founder of three companies related to her research in taste, including the sensory software company DraughtLab. She lives in Denver with her husband and daughter who motivate her every day to see joy in life. Noah Larsen is the Principal at Oom Factory, a small studio focused on UX/UI design and front-end development. He is also the founder of 2 Bit Hustle, an adult apparel company with a sense of humor and style, in addition to being an emerging illustrator and artist. He recently bought a home in Wheat Ridge, CO. Sheree Lovemestiza Brown is a woman of many colors: herbalist rooted in traditional indigenous medicine, artist, writer, poet, and creator. She has taught workshops for youth with Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop and coordinated after-school programs on Denver’s east side. She holds degrees in Africana Studies and English Literature and is a certified Permaculturalist in sustainable systems design.
Why try to build a Happy City? Because we must.
1 – Emotional Baggage Drop (hello stranger), Stuart Semple 2 – Happy Clouds, Stuart Semple
3 – Baker-Miller Pink (billboard), John Roemer
4 – Animated Screens, Theresa Anderson, Milton Melvin Croissant III, Vince McKelvie, and Zach Reini
5 – Soft Something, Matt Barton
6 – Between Us: The Downtown Denver Alleyways Project, Carlos
Frésquez, Kelly Monico, Stuart Semple, Joel Swanson, and Frankie Toan
7 – JUMP (bring us together), Stuart Semple PROGRAMS & COMMUNITY PARTNER EVENTS A – Happy Bikes B – Happy Talks
C – Happiness Unpacked, Panel Discussion D – El Paseante
E – How To Measure The Weather, Emmanuel Gallery
F – Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 with Happy Clouds G – 10,000 Smiles
H – Welcome! Come In! - The Doors Project
I – Mental Health Center of Denver Community Fish Fry
Now at their highest documented levels, anxiety and depression affect us all – ourselves, our children, our partners, our family, our friends, our co-workers. Denver Theatre District (DTD) saw an opportunity to create a long-overdue dialogue to address urban mental health through contemporary art. Happy City invites citizens to investigate, de-stigmatize, and discuss mental health while celebrating connections and happiness. Happy City transforms the urban environment by providing unexpected complimentary art experiences in surprising places: streets, alleyways, billboards, Denver Union Station’s Grand Hall, and video screens. Each art intervention imagines a more connected society, a happier one, a healthier one. We hope these art interventions challenge not only your current conception of Denver but also what our future city can become. Denver’s exponential growth has made a significant impact on our city’s citizens, especially their mental health and well-being. We want Happy City to be a catalyst for continued dialogue as Denver faces its current and future challenges. For example, it is our collective responsibility to ask if a new corporate headquarters will lead to increased community wellness. Going forward we must not be afraid to ask ourselves if we are part of our city’s problems or part of its solutions.
CA LI FO RN
Thank you for all you do to make our community better, David Ehrlich, Executive Director, DTD
4 16th ST MALL
COLORADO CONVENTION CENTER
COLFAX CIVI C CENTER PARK
DENVER ART MUSEU M
Happiness: A Long View Deanne Gertner
The history of happiness is a wonky one winding through philosophy, religion, politics, chemistry, psychology, neuroscience, capitalism, and art. But perhaps linguistics remains the windiest road to happiness, fraught and slippery as an eel. Daniel Haybron says in “Theories of Happiness,” the very foundation of happiness is a “socially constructed and messy ‘phenomena.’” In addition to being the hot mess Haybron describes, happiness is also frustratingly elusive and difficult to define from a personal perspective let alone a societal one. As Immanuel Kant said, “the concept of happiness is such an indeterminate one that even though everyone wishes to attain happiness, he can never say definitively or consistently what it is he wishes and wills.” Yet despite its problematic nature, happiness (in the Western world) has three main definitions, each of which has very different implications: luck or fortune; Eudaimonia meaning happiness derived from a life of virtue and meaning; and hedonia meaning happiness derived from pleasure. Happy comes from the Old Norse happ meaning “luck; fortune.” For much of history, happiness was seen as an exceptional and rare state, one graced upon the lucky few. As Darrin McMahon, PhD. and author of The History of Happiness, states: “For a good many ancient peoples—and for many others long after that—happiness was not something you could control. It was in the hands of the gods, dictated by Fate or Fortune, controlled by the stars, not something that you or I could really count upon or make for ourselves. Happiness, literally, was what happened to us, and that was ultimately out of our hands.” With limited scientific knowledge of the world and control over it, one would stand to reason that more people accepted pain and suffering as the status quo. This notion of luck as a root cause of happiness has persisted through
the centuries in numerous cultures. A 2013 study in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that out of 30 countries across the globe, luck or fortune was partially present in 80% of the definitions of happiness. The countries with definitions absent luck or fortune include: United States, Spain, Argentina, Ecuador, India and Kenya. Even with the same language, definitions of happiness can change from one country to the next (Australian English vs. American English or Guatemalan Spanish vs. Argentine Spanish.) The implications for a luck-based understanding of happiness remove individual agency from the equation and place an emphasis on chance. Happiness, in this understanding, is not something a person can work toward or set as a goal. Attaining it has everything to do with kismet. The understanding of Eudaimonia comes from the idea of a life having a good daimon (spirit or god) and means being blessed with a praiseworthy life. The Greek philosophers – Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle – maintained that living a good life led to happiness. Happiness was not an emotion but rather an outcome hinging on morality. Aristotle said, “Happiness is a life lived according to virtue.” While this view of happiness is one of potential attainment, these Classical philosophers recognized vicissitudes and understood that life includes pain and suffering. This understanding of happiness shares the concept of inevitable pain and the understanding that few would achieve happiness with the luck/fortune definition. However, this definition also positions the seeker of happiness with autonomy. Happiness can be reached with enough sacrifice, work, discipline, and devotion, even if few to none are up to the task. Spinning off from this understanding of happiness, is the Christian concept of happiness which prevailed from the Middle Ages through the Enlightenment. McMahon states happiness can occur in one of three circumstances: the Garden of Eden; the rapture; or in heaven upon death. Happiness, therefore, is not something to be achieved in life and is not considered a natural state. As McMahon says, “…it is an exalted condition, reserved for the elect in a time outside of time, at the end of history.” In this set up for happiness, earth is merely a waiting room and death the door to happiness.During the Enlightenment, however, concepts of happiness morphed radically to be more individualistic and sensual, focusing more on hedonia. The French Encyclopédie, what McMahon describes as the “Bible of European Enlightenment,” declares in its article on happiness that being happy is a right. Thomas Jefferson then holds the right to pursue happiness as a self-evident truth. “When the English philosopher and revolutionary John Locke,” McMahon says, “declared at the end of the 17th century that the ‘business of man is to be happy,’ he meant that we shouldn’t assume that suffering is our natural lot, and that we shouldn’t have to apologize for our pleasures here on earth.” This concept of happiness as linked to sensual pleasure has persisted today as the primary definition of happiness in America. Peter N. Stearns, in his essay “The History of Happiness” for the Harvard Business Review, documents how advances in human comfort for the middle classes from home heating to the invention of the umbrella to improvements in dentistry drove this shift in happiness. Moreover he posits that the birth of America created a social construct of insistent happiness to justify its existence as a country. “It was no accident,” Stearns says, “that this same new nation, at this same point, quietly revolutionized the approach to death by introducing the garden cemetery, where people could gain a sense of contentment, if not happiness, as they contemplated the end of life.” The happiness revolution of the Enlightenment allowed swathes of people, for the first time in history, to see happiness as something within reach. “They might not have to suffer as an unfailing law of the universe,” says McMahon, “that they could – and should – expect happiness in the form of good feeling, and pleasure as a right to existence.”
Matthew Hoffman, Hey Smiley
While this notion of happiness underlies many positive, altruistic, and humanitarian impulses, it can also prey on insecurities, anxieties, and fears. Stearns believe that the pressure to exude cheer, undermines one’s willingness to explore dissatisfaction. He also says that “a culture saturated with happiness makes it difficult for people to deal with sadness, in themselves and others.” McMahon names another facet of the happiness paradox “unnatural happiness,” which he describes as feeling bad for not being happy. Haybron, on the other hand, believes happiness is unnatural from an evolutionary perspective: “Humans were shaped by natural selection to be unhappy. Unhappiness provides us with an incentive to continue striving for those goods and situations that bring us greater differential reproductive success.” Unhappiness, therefore, is
an evolutionary trait. As soon as the rung of happiness is climbed, a new, higher rung appears. Science may very well be challenging our notions of happiness again by studying the connections between gratitude and happiness, exercise and happiness, sleep and happiness, gut flora and happiness, nature and happiness, volunteerism and happiness, meditation and happiness. We might be inching towards a more inclusive definition of happiness, one that incorporates pleasure with a greater purpose. In her book The How of Happiness psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky describes happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive wellbeing, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.” The only thing left to add to this definition? A sprinkle of good luck.
Happiness & Consumerism Marsha Mack WHAT IS HAPPINESS? Happiness is the ultimate motivator. At the heart of our deepest desires, dreams, and aspirations, lies the promise of a personal and perfect happiness. Happiness in its essence is one size fits all, transforming itself from one person to the next, stretching, distorting, and molding itself to fit the container. Like any emotion, its affective nature makes it impossible to accurately describe, yet it is innately known by all. It is highly sought after but cannot be bought or sold. People spend their entire lives chasing the idea of happiness, letting it guide decisions large and small. As Americans it is our inalienable right to pursue happiness, but whether or not happiness can truly be possessed is unclear. Take a moment and think of the happiest moment of your life. Did you know you were happy in that moment? Was it linked to a specific event or did it span days, months, or even years? Rate it on a scale of 1 to 10. Is your 10 the equivalent to someone else’s 10? The relative nature of happiness makes it tricky to identify and impossible to measure. Happiness is a slippery, ethereal substance, always living in snapshots of the past or existing as a possibility in the future. The very act of recalling happy memories invariably marks them with the residue of the moment in which they are summoned; memories are not static, but subject to change and interpretation. The happiness you have known, the feelings you can recall but never fully relive, is damaged every time you reminisce. Your happiness is not yours. Memories are exclusive to oneself and therefore connote a certain ownership; however, these phantom smells, sights, and experiences stored deep in the creases of soft tissue, are not always what they seem. Happy memories can be misremembered or forgotten. They are not loyal and prone to self destruction. Because this intangible, unstable force has the power to guide human thought and behavior, it is a worthwhile endeavor to question ourselves and what we feel to be true. In order to take steps towards greater self-awareness, the notion of happiness must be recognized for what it is: an abstraction at best. EMOTION FOR SALE The pursuit of happiness varies greatly from person to person. Individualism, often exhibited through lifestyle, self presentation, and underscored by the appearance of choice, opens up a lucrative pathway for consumer-driven happiness. Goods manufacturers increasingly rely on marketing campaigns that target emotion and identity, allowing consumers to construct their sense of self via commercial products. In this way desirable emotions are imbued into products, effectively marketing happiness as a consumer good. People wanting to feel happier, more attractive, successful, and so on, subconsciously assign emotion to product. The elegance of modern advertising blended with the visibility of the Internet Age presents new challenges to the charge of happiness. By playing to emotion rather than actual need, consumers are unknowingly drawn into an invisible system designed to create the sensation of free choice. Think of the last time you bought something you did not need. You deserved it. You just loved it. It made you feel good. You saw yourself in it. You didn’t
have to buy it but you did anyway. Happiness itself is not a monolithic truth but rather pliable, immeasurable, and vulnerable to manipulation. Where personal identity can be bought and sold, individuality is compromised. We are all capitalist, consumer creatures, which must be recognized and accepted before any progress can be made. However, if one mistakes a shopping high for actual joy should that experience automatically be discredited? Can we subvert this system of control while existing inside of it? Capitalism greatly complicates the possibility of happiness, but does not unequivocally negate it. BRAVE NEW HAPPINESS In today’s environment of hyperconnectivity, the role of emotion not only in marketing but in one’s digital projection of self cannot be overstated. The construction of identity and personal myth, while always a factor in social interactions, now reaches obsessive heights. Feeds across social media platforms are flooded with the smiling faces of presumably happy people, exotic locations, and expensive meals. The appearance of happiness has emerged as a new form of social currency, yet whether or not this enhances anyone’s lived experience is debatable. Social media as threat to one’s psychological wellbeing is not a new concept. Theories explaining the positive correlation of anxiety and social media engagement range from negatively comparing oneself to others to overexposure to LED screens on optic nerves. Today’s social media users are at the beginning of a new social landscape. The need to see oneself reflected in a feed of words and images, to hold defined political views and to regulate those who dissent, to simultaneously share oneself authentically yet protect personal information, all while being targeted by razor sharp ad campaigns, define the modern socio-digital condition. The construction and curation of self, appraised by the likes of others, many of whom are anonymous, is the new standard for happiness. No one is born with inherent social media literacy. Developing tone and aesthetic, creating a persona, generating content, cultivating savvy, and gaining visibility and followers are all learned skills. Some are more successful than others in this brave new socio-digital landscape, their aptitude marked by many factors, most notably high numbers of likes and followers. But what is the cost of social media fame? Are these people happier, or do they experience increased internet-induced anxiety? Whether or not negative emotions outstrip the positive experience of social media prosperity will help us collectively define the changing mode of happiness in the very near future. Everyone wants to be happy. The desire to experience pleasurable emotions has long been a driving force for human beings, guiding decision making and motivating action. Humanity’s greatest unsolvable riddle -happiness -- is a fleeting feeling, a fickle, intangible sensation. It cannot be measured, compared, preserved, or possessed. It has no origin and no destination. It is vulnerable to manipulation, as the appealing and effervescent qualities that make it precious also make it weak. Pragmatically speaking, happiness does not and cannot exist. That being said, you’ll know it when you find it.
The Neuroscience of Happiness: Confessions of a Depressed Scientist Nicole L. Garneau, PhD
My last therapy session ended in an explosion of laughter. The reason was irony. I had told my therapist that I had accepted an invitation to write an article on the neuroscience of happiness. Happiness feels elusive to many people and it is notoriously hard to define. I asked of family, friends and even strangers I met on the street what they meant by being happy, or wanting their kids to be happy. They struggled to answer, just as scientists, psychologists and spiritual leaders have struggled for centuries. In The Book of Joy, the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu argue that happiness is due to external reward, while joy is internal and
lasting. It is true that what brings someone temporary external happiness may vary. But what allows us to obtain long lasting inner happiness (joy in being alive) comes down to one thing, being at peace enough with ourselves to love and be loved: human connection. The story of our connectedness begins in how our brains have evolved. Your senses take in clues from the environment and from people around us and send that information to the brain. When the brain is healthy and working efficiently, information is taken in, subconsciously noted or rises to the level of consciousness. The brain sends signals back to the body, causing muscles to contract and the needed behavior to take place in order to survive. The key to the nerve cells in your brain relaying information, prioritizing properly and initiating action so rapidly is the hard work of your neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are little molecules that help your neurons send signals and communicate via electrical impulses. It sounds complicated, but really, it all works much like the wave at a Rockies game. Imagine every person in the stadium is a nerve cell. And each nerve cell/person is holding a beer (excitatory neurotransmitter). When a cell/person gets excited, the cell has an action potential and starts the wave. In order to do so, they hand off their beer/excitatory neurotransmitter to their neighbor. When they are done doing the wave, they take their beer back. The neighbor now does the same thing, handing their beer to the next person so that they can be part of the action too, and so on and so forth, the wave continues. In this analogy, the neurotransmitter is the beer that is sent out by the releasing cell to the receiving cell, telling it to get ready and open up the gates to receive the excitement. When it’s done, the beer (neurotransmitter) is taken back (reuptake) by the original releasing cell and is ready for the next wave. Just as not all beer styles (ahem, IPAs) cause excitement to all people, neither do all neurotransmitters. I like a traditional English brown ale. The same goes for the brain, both styles of neurotransmitters are needed for it to work the way it should. But if you have low quality, “bad” beer (neurotransmitters) to begin with or a disorder in the brain that leads to sloppy beer handoffs, it makes it difficult for the brain to cleanly process that flood of information coming in from your senses, control emotions and initiate the right behaviors. This disorganization wreaks havoc on you physically and mentally, and unsurprisingly strains relationships as it becomes extremely difficult to connect with others. This is exactly what happened to my brain. Due to genetics, I have low quality inhibitory neurotransmitter called serotonin. Like a skunky beer, my serotonin is ok, but it is not great, and well, like a skunky beer, if you need one bad enough, anything will do. So eventually, my body just got used to it. People with this genetic change are less resilient to the neurological toll of stress and trauma.
However, medication is not magic, and I am here to tell you that it won’t make you happy. What it does do, is give you the boost to stop hiding underneath the covers. I started doing the things that all of our brains need to make us more resilient to messy beer handoffs. Not exactly rocket science: move, have fun, sleep, be reflective, get downtime, and above all think more positively, be more grateful. These actions will bring you a baseline of internal peace, but they do not ensure happiness. Which brings us to where we started; the final neurological step in happiness is human connection. When our minds are at peace, good things happen. Our neurotransmitters forge strong communication between neurons and our brains efficiently process information. This absence of chaos at the cellular level directly corresponds to an absence of chaos at the level of consciousness, leading to a sense of peace and positivity. We become more open and very naturally do the one thing that science and spirituality both say is most important for lasting happiness; we unlock the gates that normally keep us from genuinely connecting with others. This happens because we are vulnerable and show our real selves without shame or guilt. We feel like we belong and initiate behaviors that reflect inner peace. We put ego aside in order to give and forgive; we allow ourselves to look someone in the eye and smile. These small acts of human connection have the ability to snowball due to specialized brain cells called mirror neurons. These amazing neurons help the brain perceive the actions and feelings of others and allow you to actually feel it as if you were doing and feeling, and then the body is inclined to mirror what it perceives. When you feel good, at peace, you will notice it takes no effort at all to feel like you are not alone. You lift your head away from the phone and smile at another, get their smile in return, and then experience the flood of feel good endorphins in your brain. Your act of human connection brought you happiness, and just as important, you passed the happiness on to another. In fact, your mirror neurons are working right now, just from reading about people smiling at one another. And if you’re like me, when feeling at peace and generous with yourself and your spirit, you feel most alive. What does our city look like when we really see one another—when we smile at strangers because we believe that the only way we rise is when we rise together? It looks like a city I am proud to call home and a place that will positively shape my life and in turn the life of my daughter.
Skunky serotonin laid the foundation for the potential for a disorderly brain, and by compounding this with sexual abuse at a young age and learned shame that is a hallmark of survivors, the stage was set early in my life for increased risk of messy beer handoffs. When I lost first a close friend, then a colleague and finally a family member in a rapid succession of sudden deaths in 2017, my brain could not handle the grief, what with the skunky serotonin sucking at life and my brain’s inclination for messy beer handoffs thanks to adverse childhood experiences. Therefore, #fail neurotransmitter communication and a severed ability to connect with others, including with my daughter. I knew from scientific studies on depressed parents that there was a real chance I would shatter her healthy brain functioning if I did not address my depression. So, I stopped copping out. I labeled and owned the hand I was dealt: I suffer from depression. I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I have skunky serotonin. I have been teetering on the cliff of chemical imbalance for years and finally fell off. When I told my dad, he said, “When you break your arm do you go to your friend to fix it?” I replied that no, I see a doctor. “So,” he continued, “it stands to reason that when you break your brain you need someone qualified, too.” Touché. His take home message: as much as they love you--your friends, family members, partner, etc., they are not equipped to fix your broken brain. I talked to my therapist next. She said, “I’ve been seeing you for 10 years and you always bounced back. This time is different.” She recommended I put my ego aside and schedule an appoint with my primary care doc. Neuroscience to the rescue! I was prescribed small molecules called SSRIs to help block the reuptake of my skunky serotonin by my nerve cells, which leaves more available right where they are needed to do their job.
Ellin Rosenthal My parents didn’t merely ban God, they squeezed spirituality out of the house altogether. I bear them no ill will on this front. I love them dearly and they did what was right for them. Yet, I came into the world a person who is continually searching for answers about my existential place. I was obsessed with finding a Unified Theory of Everything that would, with certainty, clarify a whole lot of questions I had about how to do this human thing. I hoped to throw to the universe this question: am I doing this right? And in response, I hoped the universe would throw some insight back my way.I was raised to understand that religious people were weak-minded folk who believed that God was an old bearded man on a throne “up there”
who decided who got cancer and whose team would win the big game. This regular depiction of God and the attending parental howls of disdain at the expression of any interest in religion produced a Pavlovian effect that afflicts me to this day: every mention of God, regardless of speaker and circumstance, creates in me the urge to leave the room. I didn’t go to Hebrew school. I wasn’t bat mitzvahed. I did go to others’ bar and bat mitzvahs. I went to family weddings and funerals. I even went to church a couple of times with friends. It didn’t matter what religion it was. In either case, I might as well have been an alien, petrified at a synagogue that I would be asked to sing something in Hebrew or that at a church I wouldn’t know when to kneel and when to stand. Alien is no exaggeration. I am well past 50 years old and have only relatively recently learned that the Jews call themselves the people of the Word or people of the Book. I have only recently understood that John, in the New Testament, begins, “In the beginning was the Word.” But these mentions of language have proven to be my portal into a personal idea that is becoming important to me, call it God or not-God or God(?) or whatever suits you.
I always thought of myself as the last person who would search for happiness by way of God. . In the end, though, my search has indeed brought me a kind of happiness by bringing me to a word that encapsulates what I have come to believe is my calling as a human being vis a vis the universe. Wanting, creating, desiring, being. In the dictionary I will someday write, Godwill be a gerund: Godding.
A Bow to the Pacific Jonathan White
When I think of the west I think of the Pacific, that “small gulf” Ferdinand Magellan named long ago for its pacificity. We now know it’s no small gulf, but the largest ocean on the planet. We also know that it’s not pacific.
In 1996, my husband and I picked our son’s name, Jaren, out of a book of names. The book said it means “to sing” in Hebrew. I mentally acknowledged the Jewish connection though that didn’t drive the decision. Both my parents’ names begin with J – that’s what got my attention.And my writer self got a private giggle out of it. “Sounds like gerund,” I said. A gerund is a word that is derived from a verb but functions as a noun. A word that is two things at once, a big plus for me, who always desired to be many things. A word that described my other favorite words: being, creating, doubting - all words that could be verbs and nouns, depending on how you used them. A word that in its potential for subversion, that in its capacity to accommodate multiple ways of being in the world, brought me joy on all levels. As soon as we’d settled on our son’s name, gerund became my favorite word. I took every opportunity to make gerund jokes (A gerund and an infinitive walk into a bar, drinking to drink), to point out gerunds in sentences, to express the joy the word gave me because it reminded me of my son. Fast forward two decades. Although I still carried my bred-in-the-bone distaste for the religious language of God, I had grown willing to bet there was more to the idea than the one I was raised to believe in. I’m now two years into a journey of questioning, trying to figure out my own spirituality, interviewing family and friends, reading tracts on religion, theology, and philosophy. My epiphany occurred some months ago, when my brother-in-law, a pastor with a PhD in theology, said something that absolutely flattened me. “Strip away religion,” I said. “Strip away the language of any particular religion. What is God?” “God is a verb,” he said. “God really should be expressed as a verb. God is a state of being.” I experienced three thoughts at once: First: Holy crap, you’re allowed to say that? You’re a member of the clergy. You wear a collar. You’re a professional man of God. Why aren’t you saying that God is an old bearded guy on a throne telling every willing body what to think? Second, being in this instance sounds an awful lot like a gerund... And third, if there is something in the idea of God that I can benefit from, then the only way I can hope to grasp it is to create my own word, my own name for the phenomenon that others call God. That word clearly needs to be a gerund, because we humans are always vibrating between states of being and I need a word that can do that, too. My parents’ declaration, then (there is no God) became, in a lived sense if not a religious one (there is nothing but God) which evolved, with the help of a clergyman’s insight, into (God is), and ultimately into taking the verb to its gerund heights: Godding. With my evolving understanding and a dollop of humility to remind me that that I will never be able to claim to know that which lies beyond my human limits, I am now learning to be happy to accept the certainty of my uncertainties and the permanence of my impermanence under the condition that as long as I live I continue to seek meaning, which, by the way, is a gerund.
Chinn Wang, WaveSandcastle
I grew up waist-deep in this ocean, literally on the beaches of southern California where the continent’s rock and sand slips into the sea. I fashioned sandcastles, fished the intertidal, surfed the green swells that loom from the Bering Sea in winter, and sailed thousands of miles on the coast and offshore.
In my teens I moved to the Northwest, where I now live on a small island near the Canadian border. As a sailor, having made the journey from Seattle to Alaska dozens of times, it’s the narrow tidal channels that resonate most with me. These are the places where tidal currents are pinched into a fury of white water as the tide scrambles to get in and out; places a prudent sailor doesn’t venture except at the right tide. These are also places that focus memory and imagination, where one can see and feel the moon in the water. It was this coast, these waters, that led me to explore tides in some of the world’s most remote corners. In France, I interviewed the monks who live in the tide-wrapped monastery of Mont Saint-Michel; in China, I raced the Silver Dragon, a twenty-five-foot tidal bore that crashes eighty miles up the Qiantang River; and in the Arctic, I shimmied under the ice with Lukasi Nappaaluk, an Inuit elder, to hunt for mussels in the cavities left behind at low tide. “Don’t do this alone,” someone had warned. But there was no need. I practically wrapped my arms around Lukasi as we dropped through the small hole he carved, landing seven feet below in a dark, warm underworld. For several minutes I was completely disoriented. My glasses and camera fogged instantly. As my eyes adapted, I noticed that the seafloor receded in places, allowing enough head room to stand upright. Muted blue light penetrated from above where the ice was thin or fractured. Bits of seaweed and detritus clung randomly to the ceiling—evidence of the last high tide. Lukasi busily collected mussels while I sat still, my breath shallow and quick, taking in the eerie surroundings. I felt as if I had dropped into an entirely unknown and unexpected realm, as if the tiny hole carved by Lukasi allowed us to slip mysteriously not just under the ice, but beneath the surface of the sea. In a dreamlike state, I felt inside the body of the ocean. As far afield as I journeyed, or as deep, the Pacific always beckoned. Here, I sought the world’s fastest, scariest tides. At Yaculta Rapids on the BC coast, I slammed into four-foot standing waves; in Sergius Narrows, Alaska, I nearly capsized in a sucking, hissing whirlpool. Half way up the BC coast, I tried to sail into the infamous Nakwakto Rapids and was matter-of-factly spit out. I waited for slack water, too, and watched a magical stillness settle like a blanket. For a few minutes the world seemed to stop. It’s like the reward after hours of meditation when the mind finally exhausts itself and goes limp, when there’s just breath. In that silence and exquisite beauty, one could be convinced that everything in the world has paused, ready to begin anew at the next tide.
The Happy Place Emily Vizzo
Las Vegas, Nevada: It’s miles past 100 degrees and nearly every time I climb into the swimming pool my uncle joins me in his canary yellow shorts, telling me stories about my grandma and my dad. My aunt makes me lunch, laid out like an elementary school lunch in its cheery symmetry: bean taquitos, orange slices, a tidy pile of chopped lettuce, a scoop of guacamole. Tight, fat purple grapes. The bean taquitos are just like the bean taquitos my dad used to fry for dinner, draining on a folded paper towel. We talk about the motorcycle my dad just bought for Sunday cruising. I float in the saltwater, too lazy to kick, picturing my dad winding the Santa Ynez Valley on his new blue happiness. Every time a jet plane floats above us in the Nevada airspace, my uncle points to it and announces its destination. “That guy is headed to Hawaii,” he tells me. We are delighted, picturing the mai tais in the plastic cups, the flight attendants with plumeria blossoms skewered into their neat ballerina buns. The crashing turquoise waves and the orchid leis on arrival. Around us the desert tightens its grip on the heat. Or maybe it’s the other way around. My aunt slides open the sliding glass door, three yipping puppies at her heels. There’s no way my uncle can know the jet is Hawaii bound, she says. But he says he happens to know for sure, and who’s to say someone isn’t flying to Hawaii right now? Someone out there is, and we are happy for them. Santa Cruz Island, California: The ferry crossing is gray and smooth; dolphins darting in the soupy wake and seabirds fishing over the floating kelp beds. The scientist and I disembark to the ranch trail with full backpacks, looking for the island foxes. He knows the name of every bird along the rim trail; I can see a man paddling in a red kayak far below into a flat blue spread of Pacific Ocean.
store windows. A little boy runs over, peering into my face. What am I looking at, he wants to know. The scientist comes out. “I think she’s special too,” he tells the little boy. Their two faces peeping over me are pale in the dark. I reach my arms up to be lifted. Alassio, Italy: The long, cold and aimless week between Christmas and New Year. I had expected to feel something major, some come-to-Jesus orchestral swoop of blood and ancestors, but instead I just feel happy. The trees lining the streets are loaded with oranges. A few surfers thrash in the crashing, roughshod whitewash. I am wearing a red jacket with a hood and satin pockets. Everything delights me. I look like the women walking in the streets. All the men look like my uncles. The two who are living, whose wives tucked $20 dollar bills and homemade scarves into my suitcase before I left. The one who died by suicide. Yes, the men on the streets of Alassio — they especially look like him. Valbonne, France: For New Year’s Eve I zip on an old black dress, one that has seen me dancing through the streets of New Orleans. I use a tiny spoon to dot petite potato halves with crème fraiche and caviar: two kinds. At the party I swallow big, oceanous oysters that brighten my throat with saltwater. I thicken bread with foie gras. The men load a barrel with commercial-grade fireworks and the booming twinkles and spark rain over our heads along with the real rain, a light mist that shines in the fine hair of each woman. The woman next to me studies the sex patterns of fruit flies in Nice; she wears an elaborate necklace, like an onyx breastplate. In the stairwell, tipsy, elated in the first moments of the new year, I Facetime with my nephews in California. We are planning a slumber party, the kind where everyone sleeps on the floor in the living room, and when we wake up we will get donuts and head to the beach. They don’t know how to hold the phone correctly, and my screen is like an aquarium, with their small faces flashspooking merrily in and out of sight.
The air is aromatic at Potato Bay as we unpack our sandwiches and down on the trail beneath the scrub oak we do see the foxes. I am taking photos of the scientist taking photos. We skip stones and drink wine into the cold and windy afternoon waiting for the return ferry. My hands are so cold I can’t get a good grip; I laugh as my stones find the waterline too quickly and with speed, tripping and sinking after two reluctant jumps.
Iao Valley, Maui: A man I love pulls to the side of the road and buys two compact loaves of banana bread. We eat the first loaf right there in the front seat, the man feeding me the soft, fragrant heart with his fingers.
The scientist skips the stones so far we can’t see them. When he finds a stone he especially likes, he hands it to me to throw away, back into the ocean.
“We will save the rest for French toast,” he promises.
I can’t stop talking about the foxes.
Chinn Wang, FoxOrchid
Ahwahnee, California: The lanai outside the inn is wide and wood; it breaks open into a swatch of blue sky the color of my oldest denim cut-offs; the ones with white strings and leftover silver beads sewn into the back pockets. Not so far away, a marigold ruff of autumn mountain.
That night in the rain we sit directly in it, laughing our soaked heads off. The front yard half-lit in lightning. Ginger, banana, jasmine, plumeria, feral cats, the roofline of his daughter’s pink playhouse. For Valentine’s Day we eat pizza, the three of us. And we play Clue. Each of us is so sure we’ve sleuthed the mystery, but in the end no one has it remotely right.
We want to see the stars when the night is especially cold, and the scientist holds a chair steady while I climb to the exterior floodlight and unscrew the bulb. He points his camera toward the constellations and I make a bed of blankets and pillows on the planks. The cold and the wine and the cutting stars pin me deeper and deeper to the flannel blankets. It’s the kind of sleep you fight, and I keep semi-waking to the real stars and the stars in the shining lens the scientist stoops to show me again and again. When I accidentally break a glass bottle between a boulder and my thumb the next day, the scientist wraps my blood in a blue bandana on the trail, frozen tulle from the cascades whipping into our bright, sleepy faces. We keep pointing to the trees and the stone and the light. It’s ridiculous, this autumn sweetness. The scientist is inside the park market buying twin cans of Oregon pinot noir for our paper cups. I am outside lying down on a bench, watching the sun go down between the old branches of scented trees. Chewing sour cherry candies from a cellophane packet. The early winter lights twinkling from the
All week my room heavy with the double-twist of tuberose. My wet bathing suits stack up in the shower. I am undone with happiness. North Shore, Oahu: Nugget and Nala follow me from room to room, their heavy English bulldog heads cumbersome on tiny legs. Nala likes to roll onto her back in the sunshine, itching herself joyfully, pink belly exposed. As she whales from left to right, she crushes fallen plumeria blossoms. Hiking Turtle Bay I tell Ash about a time I sat alone on the sand of Kawela Bay, a quiet green space protected by two semi-distant coral reefs. From the tropical bush and pine stands, a compact, smiling surfer guy from Brazil had emerged. He spoke mostly Portuguese, but in English asked me if I liked chocolate. From his board shorts he withdrew a crumpled bag of Cocoa Puffs and offered them to me. Ash and I have to sit down in the sand, we’re laughing so hard about the Cocoa Puffs. At the hotel bar we order a ridiculous blended cocktail soaked in rum, vanilla, bananas, and sugar.
The checkout lines are filled with hungover couples in their bathing suits at Foodland, clutching bottles of cheap champagne and to-go cups for mimosas. To my delight, my Kama’aina number still works. You know, someone once told me, “Happiness is overrated.” Ventura, California: My sister climbs from my car on Easter morning in a long blue and white mariner dress. We take turns pulling rusted canisters from the muddy, grass-clogged graveyard where our grandmother and her sister are buried. The earth is truculent, and finally I get a pair of pliers from the center console in my car and use the needle nose to grip each thin, bent handle. We jiggle the canister hard, easing it centimeter by centimeter from the ground. In the distance two young girls, probably sisters, run in full-length white Cinderella dresses among the headstones. We say hello to the man in the row next to us, who is using crutches to move between the graves as he washes his hands in a small spigot and places a series of small bouquets into the ground. Our headstones are dirty from the recent rains, and we ease canisters of the water onto their faces. We leave orchids in the freshwater. In the backyard my nephews will let me hold them in their melon colored shirts. They run so hard in the grass for the family, abound in a happiness visibly too big for their small bodies, that when I hold them their hearts hammer direct through the shirt into my hands. Later we learn my aunt’s oldest dog has drowned in the swimming pool in Las Vegas. Santa Barbara, California: The herbarium has a mud room entrance and the cupboards are stacked with specimens that have been carefully cleaned, pressed, mounted, and frozen. A new friend explains that before bee specimens can be mounted, they must first be washed and dried. To wash a bee, place it inside a stainless-steel tea ball infuser. Discard the bee tea. Use a blow dryer to carefully warm the insect until the remaining water evaporates. I listen with the name of happiness in my mouth like a perfect rosebud. The heartbeats of my nephews fresh on my fingertips. It’s a history of things that are alive, the herbarium. Outside the foothills may still be charred from wildfire. People drowned in the mud and rain last winter. A baby went missing in the slides and we never found her. Happiness misses them, you know. Happiness will outlast each of us. I saw it plainly from an empty wagon dragged by a monk crossing Constance Avenue in front of my idling car. The sign said, “I am walking around the world.” And that may be a lie or a wish or quantifiable fact; I notice that every stone I pick up near the ocean fits perfectly in my hand. Happiness is not delicate. There are whole books written about the history of tulips. Reader, if you were any closer than these published lines I would reach out and ask to hold your hand.
A Happy Camper Kurt Caswell For the city of Denver.
As a younger man, I traveled into wild country—mostly on foot and by canoe—to test myself, to expose my Self to the winds and sun, to the moon and the night sky, to rain, to cold, to loneliness. And as such tests revealed the cracks and weaknesses in my life, they brought me closer to the rhythms of creation. These days, as much as I may be worthy of such testing, and such tests worthy of me, I go into wild country for something else; I go for solitude, sanctuary, quiet. And when I go, I take my life with me, for I prefer to live the life I have than make a failing attempt to escape it. What I want
to leave behind though, is most of the mechanized world, the noise and the smokes of industry, the pettiness and self-absorbed crises of people. For the world we have created, with its cities and its ceaseless drone of engines, has become such a place of noise and distraction as to limit the growth and bloom of the mind, and the body too, I think, and so then, the heart. To counter this scattering, I go camping, because camping makes me happy. I have a little slide-in camper on my truck. I keep it mostly packed and ready to go at any moment. It meets my basic needs, and because I like to take my work with me, I added a solar panel to power the camper and my laptop with the sun. I know a place about an hour’s drive from my home where the camping is free and unpeopled: a picnic table, a pit toilet, a fire ring. It’s not much, which is precisely why I go. Within a couple hours of preparation and driving, I am camping. From my camp, I can see the soft shoulders of a few hills to the north where mule deer are known to graze, and to the south, a long mesa top rising off an alkaline lake, which is sometimes filled with water. In late fall through winter, the lake becomes an outpost for thousands of sandhill cranes. I watch them pass overhead as they move off the lake in the morning and return to it in the evening. I have watched horned lizards sunning on the concrete footings of the fire pit, tarantulas walking the tire-track in the caliche road, and the papery shed-skin of a bull snake rattling on a hot wind. At dusk, a nesting pair of great horned owls call from an old cottonwood in a stand of hackberry and Osage orange. And a little later on in darkness, coyotes sing, and my dog, so free and easy in her primal guise, sings with them. These sounds and textures, the cool air coming on in the wake of the sun while I sit in a chair with a cup, something poured into it to pour into me, tells me that the ancient patterns of the earth are still intact. As I sit and listen and watch, a little more of the rusty city, and so the busyness of my mind, drops away. In a 2012 study, three psychologists—Atchley, Atchley, and Strayer— note that both adults and children are spending less and less time in nature, and more and more time using “attention demanding technology, which,” among other things, “regularly requires that we attend to sudden events, [and] switch amongst tasks.” All this attending and switching, all this consumption of media distracts and scatters the mind, makes us anxious and uneasy. What happens to the mind, their study asks, when such technologies—primarily our phones and portable tablets—are removed, and then replaced by a quiet immersion in nature? After just four days in nature, subjects of their study increased “performance on a creativity, problem solving task by a full 50%.” With immersion in nature, the study suggests, we are more creative, our minds function better, we can think and act and do at the utmost peak of our potential. The research “establishes that there are cognitive costs associated with constant exposure to a technology-rich, suburban or urban environment.” What we need, they say, is more time spent in “natural environments, like the environment that we evolved in,” because they “are associated with exposure to stimuli that elicit a kind of gentle, soft fascination, and are both emotionally positive and low arousing.” I do love these phrases: “gentle, soft fascination,” and “emotionally positive and low arousing.” And I think I know what they mean, because out in my little camp I feel a quiet calm and clearing of the mind breaking over me, and I feel a softness about my shoulders and eyes that is not present in the city. I step out of my truck upon arriving at my spot, and the world is there laid out before me, the real world, full of its beauty and mystery, once again. Here, I find I have time for everything, everything that I wish I had time for at home. I have time for reading, for walking, for cooking, for doing pretty much nothing at all. And doing pretty much nothing at all at home is very different from doing pretty much nothing at all out here, outside, while camping. It is essential to human health to do pretty much nothing at all from time to time, to engage in, what the 18th century German philosopher Immanuel Kant called “purposiveness without purpose.” We must get our work done of course, but camping affords a needed interstice to our otherwise busy lives. We need time to rest, but not lazily so. Doing nothing while camping enjoys an essential purpose. Bathed in the light and glow of natural objects, we are awed by the finitude of human life against the infinitude of the cosmic deep. And while such a thought may sound grandiose, we need not think too hard on it while camping. Better to sim-
Sporting smiles, Samuel Speedily Skateboarded Somewhere Spectacular, Noah Larson
ply allow an awareness of our little lives alongside an endless ocean of stars to manifest. While camping, we can allow the purpose of our lives to remain in a purposeless form, a state that offers the gentle and soft fascination that is a balm to our natural rhythms. Camped in my spot one evening—it was late spring—I had bread baking in a Dutch oven in my firepan, a spatchcocked chicken awaiting the grill, and some asparagus. The sun, now at the horizon line, allowed a little moisture to return to the rarefied air. My dog had eaten, and she now kept watch at the tree line. Just this was enough, but it was not all. I had my eye on the cottonwood, and the hulky figure perched up there in all its feathery weight. I turned away only for a moment to do this or fuss with that when a gray shape came over my head. Above me now, that great horned owl was perched on top of my camper. We looked at each other but said nothing because nothing needed to be said. Then, the owl stepped off into the air and followed a smooth track on the wing back to the safety of the trees. I let that moment quiet and cool and settle into place, and then put the chicken and asparagus on the grill.
It Isn’t Magic
Kimberly McClintock To live creatively is to live at the edge of chaos. ~ Robert Grudin, “The Grace of Great Things” You start with your own body then move outward, but not too far. Never try to please a city, for example. ~ Stephen Dunn, “How to Be Happy: Another Memo to Myself” Living as an artist means living by one’s wits, as thieves do. Intuiting this, parents encourage their children to study something “useful” in college. I had such sensible parents, but luckily, mine were also poor planners and when the time came to pay tuition I was on my own. In the course of a bachelor’s in literature, Stephen Dunn taught me that a good lie in service of the truth is often more honest than sentimentality; and that the boring is in me, not in Raymond Carver. I picked up a good deal about discernment in Warren Wilson’s MFA program by listening to then relatively unknown future MacArthur fellows argue about aesthetics, craft and the practice of writing. Pursuing those “useless” degrees was an act of faith in myself and a commitment to my life as an artist, but paying off my student loans last year was the first black and white success I’ve had since graduation. If you’re inclined toward an artistic life, you are probably also inclined to second-guessing and dissatisfaction. Anything approaching happiness I’ve experienced in thirty years as an artist has been a byproduct of productivity, which requires bricolage, the ultimate leveraging of one’s wits. “Practice makes perfect,” saith they, but arguably perfection eludes even the most practiced artist. Process is the single element of an artistic life that can be committed to and executed on perfectly. It is the one sphere of the creative life over which the artist has sole and absolute control. No piece of art is ever finished, only abandoned in despair, said Ellen Bryant Voigt quoting Auden quoting Valery, or maybe Paul Celan, or possibly DaVinci. In any case, when we accept that our work will never satisfy us, we see more clearly when to shove it from the nest. Before the fledgling creation hits the ground, we must be at work on something new. Spend as little energy as possible deciding again today what you decided once and for all yesterday. Don’t waste energy wondering why, if you’re doing the right thing, your attention is fractured and you feel so generally uncomfortable. Read Rilke; allow yourself to be reassured that dissatisfaction, shame, awkwardness, difficulty and loneliness — terrible, aching, mortifying loneliness — attend all creative work. To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours, wrote Rilke, that is what you must be able to attain. Or, as my good friend Karen says, One who belongs nowhere, belongs everywhere. Think as little as possible about the marketplace. As Mary Karr said a few years ago at the Tattered Cover, there will always be a market for good work. Our concern is making good work. The Dalai Llama advises that we consider our relative enlightenment no more than once a decade. Ditto our creative product. Give yourself a decade to learn your trade with no one
looking over your shoulder. Take a B job. Don’t ask your creative work to feed you. Train yourself to live on little, cultivate satisfaction with simplicity. Ask again and again, What do I need? What’s in my way that I can control? Motorcyclists, skiers, and artists have in common that they go where they’re looking. The work is sacred. Performing it is a gift. You serve it, not the other way around. Treat the practice of art with the seriousness you do any other work. In choosing your B job consider one that compels the least of your attention, either because it’s too interesting, or because it’s too dull. Spend the first or last few hours you’re awake on weekdays, most of Saturday and part of Sunday practicing your craft. Study your craft over lunch. This devotion will not endear you to your boss. If your boss is doing her job well, she may view your avocation as a distraction from your vocation. This is fair. Resign yourself to it, prioritize your efforts. Be unapologetic. Don’t wait for permission, but don’t cultivate drama. Drama claims all available resources and is often mistaken for life. Endeavor, as Socrates advised, to know yourself; be someone on whom nothing is lost. Meditation is useful toward this end. It trains the mind to distinguish thought from thinker, to detach from story, to focus. It relaxes mind and body while teaching both that it is possible to be comfortable with discomfort. This detachment also supports a necessary skepticism with regard to the opinions of your boss, parents, significant others and larger community. Strategies for approaching meditation abound; if one method fails you, seek out another. Be ruthless in assessing what is effective for you. Any given practice may support a story that inspires you, but as a rule be suspicious of what anyone, even you yourself, think you “should” be doing. Practice an occupation other than your art as if it were your art. As Stephen Dunn puts it toward the end of the poem I included as an epigraph, “Learn how to make something: / food, a shoe box, a good day.” Skiing and riding a motorcycle are what I’ve chosen. These pastimes have in common two critical elements: a demand for all available resources, and boundaries that are discrete and flexible. Whatever you choose, it must remind you that total engagement is occasionally effortless. As my degrees were an act of faith, so is the daily practice of art. The novel does not get written by lunch, as Colum McCann has put it. Nothing much of any measure is accomplished on a given day. Train the mind. Maintain the body. These activities are as essential as studying and practicing craft if productivity over the long term is the goal. Conveniently, these activities also fill the hours that would almost certainly otherwise be occupied by soul crushing angst. Which, like drama, is cunning in its ability to masquerade as the work itself. Which it is not. We are angsty because our taste outstrips our abilities (Ira Glass), but also because, as Boulder meditation teacher Peter Williams is fond of saying, The dude who was chillin’ by the fire got eaten. We descend from those who survived; they did not relax. And so our sense that life is good and full of possibility must be cultivated — a message no less urgent for its ubiquitous commercialization and oversimplification. An artistic life, a life of the mind, is both a choice and an attitude. While cultivating simplicity, cultivate also a sense of abundance and, again, gratitude. The days of an artist are comprised of moment after moment of decisive action along these lines. How we spend our days, Annie Dillard wrote, is how we spend our life. You make your own clay, and your ability to do so must be routinely restored. Knowing yourself means knowing what feels luxurious. Exalt in it. Trust that this creates elbow room for your imagination. Judicious profligacy is an expression of freedom. Husband what you have and be sure to leave enough to daydream. Routinely, artists accomplish the impossible: they make something out of nothing. What good it does the heart to know it isn’t magic, Mary Oliver wrote of Stanley Kunitz. I am a farmer, the poet Jack Gilbert said, a farmer of poetry. The dreamy, spacey, checked out artist is a myth. People who make art are among those best equipped to deal head-on with reality. While art may seem magical, it’s not created by magicians, but by soul athletes whose livelihood — and in the wisdom economy, the artist economy, livelihood is measured by product, yes, but also by the health of the practice — depends upon a sober assessment of reality. What it will take to accomplish an installation? A novel? A Happy City? An artist knows that to live by one’s wits one must keep one’s wits, and this requires not magic, but resolve. The resolve to take satisfaction from practice, and find happiness in the accrual of effort over days, months, years.
ing out back, we moved to the front yard. And when we began hanging out on the front porch, an unusual thing started happening. First, the neighbor kids came to join us in play. Then their parents came to talk and enjoy some beverages while the kids played. Then, the people up the street who walk their dog each day stopped in to say hello and join in the conversation. And the FedEx guy took a minute from his deliveries to say hello and tell us about adventures on his route. Day after day, the group got bigger and suddenly, we were having impromptu block parties a few times each week. Through this process, I got to know my neighbors a lot better, my daughter got to make some new friends, and I found people who could feed our fish during vacation. Suddenly, we were more connected than ever to our neighbors and I felt happier knowing that I was part of a community.
The Front Porch Project Amy Lopez, PhD, LCSW
Throughout the happiness literature, the need for positive relationships is routinely cited as one of the most important factors in living a happy life. Despite this need, Americans report feeling lonelier and more disconnected than ever. While there are likely many factors that contribute to the rise in loneliness, there is some question as to whether advancements in technology have had a negative impact on our relationships. There are some studies that indicate that the increased use of communication technologies may lead to depression, isolation, and a decrease in empathy. However, there are also studies that indicate that having more methods of communication helps us connect more easily and strengthen relationships regardless of time and space. While the studies to better understand the influence of technology in our relationships and behavior are underway, we really don’t know if increased technology is good for our us, our relationships, or our happiness. While the current research area of inquiry is about the use of smartphones and social media, there is one piece of technology that changed how humans interact that is often overlooked: air conditioning. Yes, that is right, air conditioning. Prior to the advent of air conditioning, many people spent their evenings outdoors as a way to avoid the heat of the house. As they spent their evenings outside, they had the opportunity to get to know their neighbors, to talk with others in the community, and provide a space for the children to play together. After air conditioning was introduced, people spent more time inside and away from their neighbors. Shortly after air conditioning became common in homes, there were other advances in technology that also kept people inside, including cable television, video gaming systems, and the Internet, which now allows people to work, shop, and attend school without ever having to step out the front door. These modern luxuries replaced the evenings on the porch, afternoon pick-up kickball games, and regular contact with others in the neighborhoods. While they may seem insignificant, these kinds of day to day interactions with people in the community are demonstrated to improve our health and overall well being and are essential in treating loneliness and depression. Saying hello to the mail carrier or having a conversation with other parents during school drop off provide an opportunity to feel connected to others and to the larger community. However, the rise of smartphones is now disrupting our social interactions when we are outside our homes. Rather than chatting with a stranger while waiting for the bus or talking to the barista while the coffee is being made, people are engaged with their screens. These seemingly small and unimportant conversations are a pretty important part of our happiness, but we’re losing them to the smart phones, just like we lost neighborhood conversations to air conditioning. While no one really wants to give up their smartphone or air conditioning (understandably) I don’t think we have to give in to technology completely. Instead, I have a simple suggestion that may very well increase your daily happiness by doing only one small thing: Sit on the front porch. My idea for this happiness activity happened by accident last spring, when we were having some work done in the backyard. This meant that we could not play back there but still wanted some outside time. So, instead of play-
I began telling my friends about my experiences and encouraged them to try it too. All over the country, friends and family began doing nothing more than sitting on their front porches. Their experiences led to similar findings. The Front Porch Project was a success as people traded in social media for old-fashioned neighborhood gossip. My friends and family reported that they were able to improve their relationship with their neighbors, had a greater feeling of community, and overall, said that this project made them feel happier. And not one of them reported missing their air conditioning or cable tv. If you want an easy happiness activity and would like to join the Front Porch Project, here’s what you do: Sit on your front porch. Don’t have a porch? A park bench will work. So will a bus stop. Or a seat at a restaurant. The place is not important. Getting out and talking to others is. Pay attention to the neighborhood and say hello to those who pass by. In those times when you may be tempted to grab your phone, like while sitting in an airport terminal, maybe just leave it in your pocket for a few extra minutes. See what’s in front of you and let others know you’re open for a conversation. Maybe this process will not only make you a little happier, but it may also spread some happiness to others who may need it too.
Peak Happiness Jethro Black
When I was nineteen, I became one of many sidewalk decorations roaming the streets of Denver, passively ignored by those with jobs and homes of their own. In other words, I was homeless. I was like a misplaced garden gnome standing in a landfill of other people’s ignorance. To go into the full details of how it happened would take forever on paper. The gist of it is that I had a transphobic father who made me leave after finding out about my gender identity, so away I went. My first night at Urban Peak’s shelter was the closest thing to heaven I’d experienced. I was dead to the world but surrounded by graceful outcasts much like myself. Everyone I met was kind and sincere, wanting to know everything about me without bias or judgment. The first youth I met was a young man with a passion for music. He heard me playing my violin in the shade of trees in front of the homeless shelter. When I noticed him listening, we struck up a conversation about his dream to band together with a group of musicians and have them write and play music together. The young man said he was looking for a job so he could have money to pay the musicians as a way to thank them for helping him with his dream. It’s been two years since I last saw him, but I have no doubt he’s still working towards that dream. The next youth I met was a young woman who welcomed me to sit with her for dinner. Among the other youth sitting with us were musicians, writers, and other kinds of artists. I even bonded with someone who shared my love for Hayao Miyazaki films. It was comforting beyond belief getting to meet all of these people. Before homelessness, it was borderline impossible for me to make friends because the majority of people I grew up with only cared about getting high, playing sports, or going to parties. As for me, the way I’ve always explained it is that I had better things to do with my time. I focused on academics and my artistic hobbies. At the shelter, I could be with people who had the same values and beliefs as me. It was heart-warming. There were even times, while I was staying at the shelter, where I caught myself saying I was “heading home” from the library, or from work once I got my first job. I never said that when I lived with my relatives. It was something along the lines of, “I’m heading back to the house.” It was a valuable lesson for me to realize homes and houses are not the same things. A house is a thing you pay for whereas a home is a place where you feel loved and welcome, a place that gives you authentic happiness.
What makes me happiest is getting to be with the people I have come to call my family. I don’t have to pretend for them; I don’t have to impress anyone. They let me be myself without judgment or bias. The happy memories I’ve made with my new family outweigh the struggle of what it took to get back on my feet. Now, I’ve been in housing for over a year and that would not be possible without the love and support from everyone I’ve met through Urban Peak.
Merry Band of Misfits Nichol Burns
Some assume homelessness is a sad miserable life. But my happiest moments are during homelessness. Being with people that not only are in the same struggle as you but aren’t content with being down forever. Pops calls us the Merry Band of Misfits. Finding the best in what’s going on around you. My happiness is made throughout my day. Getting to the library and having personal time being able to talk to people back home. Walking to camp seeing other friends. Knowing when I go back I’ll see my little family there making their beds. Just knowing we made it another day together where no one died or went to jail. Going on small adventures to different skate parks, watching Nala play with the ducks at the Ducky Pond her ears bouncing with every step. Being able to see so much like going to festivals and concerts. Even though I left a toxic family behind being at my lowest low, I can say that I have people who did the same thing and all together we’ve made our own perfect family where everything is equal. You start loving things about you that you were once ashamed of. Making something pretty amazing out of a shitty situation and having people who were once strangers to you start to become the people you depend on most when you start to feel like you’ll never make it out of this pit. Not many people today will be as loyal as two people who do nothing but go have adventures and get shit done every day for say two months. They become a part of you. My only regret is that I didn’t meet the people I share a slab of concrete with sooner. My happiest moments come from being with them. They are the reason I can say I’m happy. It doesn’t matter that we don’t have a roof over our heads or that we struggle so much or that we’re judged for just existing. We make the best of every situation. As long as we’re together and alive, it doesn’t matter. I’m still happy.
Caring for the City’s Caretakers: Comprehensive Employee Support & Wellness at the Denver Department of Public Safety Emily Lauck, Denver Department of Public Safety
The Department of Safety consists of approximately 4,400 employees across seven agencies (Denver 911, the Fire, Police and Sheriff Departments, Community Corrections, Safety Youth Programs and Gang Reduction Initiative of Denver) and supported by the Office of the Executive Director and Safety Human Resources. Public Safety careers involve fast-paced, high-stress, and, at times, life-threatening work. Our employees run towards dangerous situations others run from. They answer urgent calls for help and talk citizens through their darkest moments. This difficult work can have a negative impact on employees’ health and well-being. Understanding this, the Denver Department of Public Safety developed a comprehensive wellness program to help employees manage the physical, mental, and emotional stressors associated with public safety work.
The Department’s Employee Wellness and Resiliency Program, just one of many support services offered to employees, provides free or low-cost, easy-to-access wellness tools to employees across the Department, both civilian and uniform. Each Safety agency personalizes its wellness efforts to meet the unique needs of its workforce. The Executive Director’s office oversees the comprehensive program from a department-wide perspective to leverage program resources and expand successful individual agency wellness efforts Department-wide. Our model is to support and leverage the innovative and important work of our agencies to support their employees, while leveraging their efforts to provide access to support services and resources for all employees across the Department of Safety. Two key strategic efforts help employees fortify their personal wellness: Tactical Stress Management and Embedded Physical Therapy. People are drawn to public safety work because they seek to help people and solve problems. That work takes a physical and emotional toll, and it is our job to support them in supporting the community they serve. As they receive emergency calls or respond to dangerous situations, public safety employees enter a state of heightened focus and pressure that can cause physical stress. Through yoga and mindfulness training, we teach them science-based stress management skills that help them return to a sedentary physical state. Studies show stress management supports improved sleep, clarity of thought and better communication through a calm delivery. As one Denver Police Officer explained, “Yoga helps increase the wellness of our officers and helps drive home how important it is for us to take care of ourselves. We’re always out there taking care of others and it doesn’t hurt to take a few minutes a day to bring yourself back down to a neutral state and focus on yourself.” Since 2016, the Department has hired yoga instructors to teach classes at Police District Stations that focused on stress management, relaxation, and physical pain relief. The instructors partnered with Police personnel to tailor yoga to the unique scheduling and cultural constraints presented by law enforcement. Last summer, the Department partnered with a non-profit organization to train 18 employees and 2 civilians as yoga instructors in a specialized protocol for the emergency responder population. The curriculum was designed specifically to treat the stress and trauma first responders encounter on the job and provide employees with tools to manage stress, remain calm and focused in dangerous situations, and regulate the mindbody connection to increase sleep quality, decrease anger and stress, and improve communication. Today, interest in yoga remains strong and classes are available to uniform and civilian employees at a variety of locations each month, and have been incorporated into recruit training academies as well. A civilian Safety employee stated “I have been able to go off my sleep medications, my stress has dropped at least by 50%, my ability to handle tense situations has improved. I am more energetic and can get through my work easier because I am more focused.” High turnover and low retention rates are prevalent in 911 call centers across the nation. It is an industry that is both technically difficult and emotionally draining. To address this, Denver 911 implemented an employee mindfulness resiliency training program in partnership with a science-based curriculum designed by a local non-profit organization. Employees learn various evidence-based meditation, self-regulation and breathing techniques that help them de-stress, clear their minds, reset, and refocus. Over time, these skills help employees develop greater resiliency towards the negative stressors and traumatic exposures they encounter on the job. The training has been extremely well received and employee engagement at the call center has surged. Employees who are more engaged produce higher quality work and are less likely to be absent or quit an organization. The number of employees who self-identified as champions, or employees who are highly engaged and highly committed to staying with Denver 911, increased by 24% in two years. Additionally, 90% of employees indicate that they intend to stay with Denver 911 for at least another 12 months. Several employees have identified the commitment of their leadership team to invest in the employees and their well-being as an important and unique factor in their work environment. The department-wide Physical Therapy Program is another effort that shows promising employee wellness results. The intent of the Program is two-fold: to help employees avoid injury and to reduce the severity and duration of injuries when they do occur. To help achieve this, the Department of Public Safety imbedded experienced physical therapists in each training academy that provide free, direct access treatment to all Safety employees, both civilian and uniform. The physical therapists can treat a variety of injuries, including those related to workers compensation claims. The ability to treat these injuries in-house means those hurt in the line of duty can receive treatment at a Safety facility from a provider who intimately understands the
work they do. When an employee might be struggling with the psychological impact of the situation leading to their injury or the stress and frustration caused by injury, the physical therapy team works closely with their patient to identify supportive resources to heal both their mind and body. The physical therapists also utilize a functional movement tool to predict and mitigate employees’ individual risk of injury. Every recruit is screened at the start and end of the Police, Fire and Sheriff academies and provided with simple stretches and exercises to correct any movement deficiencies. A variety of classes that encourage proper form and stretching are also available to employees through the agency training staff and physical therapy team. Employees who begin their careers with a good foundation of nutrition, hydration, stretching and proper movement are set up to succeed in a long and productive career serving the City, its residents and visitors. One Sheriff Department employee stated “I stopped calling in sick because I finally feel better and able to go to work thanks to the Physical Therapist.” Our Department believes that this proactive, preventative focus sets our physical therapy services apart from any other clinic in the industry. The Physical Therapy Program is a key tool for our employees to have ownership over
their workplace safety and overall wellbeing – we want them to have both a long, healthy career and a retirement where they are physically and mentally equipped to enjoy a high quality of life in return for their service to the City. Because of the dangerous and dynamic work undertaken by our employees on a daily basis, our Department leads the City in the number and severity of workers compensation claims due to line of duty injuries and illnesses. Our Department partners with the City’s Risk Management division to ensure our employees receive quality rehabilitative care through our in-house Physical Therapy Program. Piloted through the Fire Department, in-house physical therapy grew to a nationally-recognized Total Wellness Program that is amongst the leaders in the fire services industry. In just the last 2 years, the Department has decreased its workers compensation costs by approximately $8 million, reduced the amount of time an injured worker is unable to be at full duty (on average, 10 fewer lost work days per claim), and created a true team of physical therapists, medical providers, and claims managers who work to support and heal our employees after a workplace injury or illness. We applaud our agencies for supporting employee wellness through a variety of strategies and will continue to support their work and the wellness and resiliency of our employees. Just like our employees take care of you on your worst days, our job is to support them in their worst days.
Cosmic Woman Plants Sheree Brown
La Mujer del Tiempo Cósmica prepares to plant the seeds that will carry elements of herself and nourish future beings. She loved her future beings so much, that she found a way to incarnate and be close to her children for all of their earthly days. When you are in need of cleansing, I will grow on your front doorstep. And even if you try to weed me out, I’ll grow in the brightest color that you can’t ignore. Your restoration deserves to be seen. When your heart aches, I will grow as fruit, petal, and thorn. The softest of things, that only care can reach, and recklessness will be painful and scorned. Reach for me when you need both tenderness and boundary. When you need be reminded, that not everything blooms in day, that magic exists in your night, watch me bloom under moonlight. Poison or cure, I am simultaneous multitudes. Cuidao. La Mujer del Tiempo Cósmica plants to prepare for beings to come. The medicine you need, I will already know. I read it, as you walk past. I am the medicine that will outlast all of your tests. Find me on mountaintops and glistening under morning dew drops. Find me in concrete cracks and bursting through brick houses. I am the companion of your joyous days, I am what the imagination arouses.
Chinn Wang, MoonPlant
I will remind you of your soles and how to reach for the sky. Despite how distracted you get, I will always be close by. Keepers of day and night, cycles and time, las plantitas bear witness to this//your, sacred life.
J.M. Farkas, 444
One time, I was walking home and heard a giggle. I looked around. I knew who it was, but where was he? He loves playing hide and seek. Oh, by the way his name is Blue. I named him that when I was about three and he was one. He is blue and black and has a violet tummy and he has a dark red horn. Oh yeah, by the way, he’s a unicorn, and I love him so much. My mom says he’s a figment of my imagination. I know he’s real. Also I don’t know what figment means so that doesn’t count that he is not real at least. That’s what I think but… one day Blue went away but I was not surprised because my mom yelled at him for leaving gumdrops on the floor. So I was sad but when I was sleeping he woke me up for school. I hugged him and I said, “Why were you gone?” He said I was never gone, I was always here in your heart.
You really want to know what happiness is? You do?
By Chloe Toler, 6th Grade (Pennington Elementary)
The Feeling of Happiness Ava Haase, 4th grade (Pennington Elementary)
Happy is a rare feeling for me. I barely ever am happy but I can describe how it is to be happy for me. After a long time I can finally be happy. Finally. The world, the area in front of me is brighter and it’s nice. When I am happy I don’t feel alone anymore. I feel like people care about me, I feel like everyone cares. When I’m happy I usually hang out with my friends. They make me feel happy, so do my pets, my family and my parents, they all make me feel happy. When I’m happy I like to make the best out of it, so I usually write or read sometimes I like hanging out with my pets or I sometimes listen to music or watch anime, a lot of anime and I eat. I know happiness isn’t a rare feeling for a lot of people but for me it’s a rainstorm. It starts and it goes away fast but I try to make the best out of it.
Lost in a World
Deven Lucero, 4th grade (Pennington Elementary) I was lost in my page I could not find it again I was shutting the door then I was stuck until somebody actually cared to open the door to imagination again. I must have passed out when I saw the big imaginary sun because in my world the sun comes out at the night... I like that. I thought I would be stuck forever then I saw the man. He looked puzzled of the ideas then he closed the book and then I got sad as a leaking balloon, though when I looked at the plants they were going down… they were sad then I said my goal is to make the man happy. When it was the next day I saw the book open I told the plants to show a smile but all the man did was smirk. I gave up when I saw it, I gave myself a good work pat on the back then I saw a word that said just a start! Try again then I got up and was making another plan. Then I saw the plants smiling.
Jonas Rosenthal (Lighthouse Young Authors Collective) Happiness is when you wake up to the sun shining on your face on a clear blue day, and there’s nothing to do on that day. Happiness is when you look down on your favorite meal (not your second favorite) and realize you don’t have to share it. Happiness is when a dog falls off a table (why was it on a table) and lands of its feet. Happiness is when you look up from a conversation and the walls have shrunk and the world feels small and close. Happiness is when you’re running and you fall down and you can see the curve of the earth and you’re the very top, and it’s all downhill from here. Happiness is when you laugh at a joke and you want to stop because it hurts, but you never want to stop because it feels so good.
Theory of Happiness
Alison Child (Lighthouse Young Authors Collective) I am a scientific woman, But I do not believe in the science of happiness. Happiness cannot be defined by parameters or numbers, By charts and graphs, By measuring tapes or vials. It just can’t, And I’ll tell you why: Happiness is in memories. warm sunlight on my cheeks and eyelids dewy grass in between my toes the trees of new england in autumn my dog’s head in my laps as she sleeps I can’t tell you the dates of these memories, Or my age. I can’t recall whether I was sad or happy beforehand. All I remember is that these memories are Tinged with the soft warmth of joy. my love’s fingers as he weaves them between mine as i read the sly smiles around the table as my grandfather won another hand of cribbage reading my favorite book in my pajamas my cat silently guarding me on my stomach as i lie sick on the couch running through the abandoned lot in the rain From Author to Reader, From Father to Son, From Mother to Daughter, From Me to You, I hope you remember. I wish for your mind to fade into the gentle cradle of joyous memory, Wam recollection, Calming remembrance. love laughter peace
Your Dream (part 1) Mathias Svalina
A tornado is following you through the streets of downtown Denver. It is not a very big tornado, as far as tornadoes go: about as tall as a two-story building. The tornado is considerate, picking its way around cars & pedestrians, pausing before crossing streets so its wind won’t topple the bicyclists. But as you hurry away from the tornado, the tornado follows you, always a block or so behind. Each time you look back, the tornado dips the wide top of its swirling cone down & pretends to be engrossed by the window displays at Forever 21 or the Chrome shop or Tattered Cover. You cut through an alley, thinking the tornado wouldn’t dare follow you down the alley, but the tornado follows you down the alley. You emerge from the alley & hide around the corner & wait to confront the tornado. A breeze pushes a wave of dry leaves from the alley. A heavier wind whips your sleeves & hair about. Then tentatively, the top of the tornado’s cone peeks out then pulls back. The tornado seems to sense a trap. Pebbles & bits of debris & ribbons sail through the air toward the creek. The tornado steps out. It is standing right beside you, its wind a steady pummel. You notice something you hadn’t seen from far away. On its side sits a small white door. You reach out & turn the handle. The door opens & a heavy wind sucks you inside. The door slams closed. Inside the tornado, though you can hear the whoosh & fury of its wind, the air is still & calm. You reach to your right & find a lightswitch & switch it on. You are in a small, but clean room, decorated simply but tastefully. On a blue table sits a black cat. The cat nods toward a chair & you sit. The cat, you understand, is the tornado’s soul. The cat rubs its cheek against your elbow & as it does, the roar of the wind outside lessens. You scratch the cat’s back: the wind stills more. The cat climbs onto your lap & flops over so you can scratch its belly. You scratch its belly & the sound of the wind dies entirely. You pet & scratch the cat until it first purrs & then falls asleep. And when you look up you are no longer in a small room. The tornado has entirely disappeared & you are in a field in the mountains, small blue flowers with petals shaped like sixes dot the thick green grass. Two elk raise their heads from grazing to examine you. You wave to them & they shake their massive heads. Chinn Wang, TornadoLightswitch The cat stretches in its sleep.
Your Dream (part 2) Mathias Svalina
You are walking past Union Station when you notice a hole in the ground. The hole is framed by thick beams of old wood. A pair of steel tracks lead down the hole. It’s a mine! You step to the edge of the mine, careful, as you’ve heard old mines can be dangerous. From inside lights shine & the clanging of metal on stone rings out. It’s a working mine! A mechanical sound revs behind you. A small mine-car is riding down the tracks toward you. The minecar is empty, so you hop into it & enter the mine. Inside, the air grows humid & cool. The sounds of cars & chatter & honking from the street echo down with increasing irrelevance as layers of rock progress from shimmering gold to luminescent blue to translucent milky marble. Finally the car reaches the bottom of the track stops. All around you people clang giant picks & hammers against the rock. You step out of the car & walk around the miners. You can’t tell what they are digging for, but they are all hard at work, faces set with grace & dedication. Just then a whistle shrills from down the mine. All the miners stop what they’re doing & run toward the sound, carrying picks & hammers. You follow. The miners have gathered around a corner where the rock wall has broken open. We got it! one miner yells out. Finally! another says. Murmurs & shouts of happiness & approval bounce off the rock walls. The miners closest to the hole bend in & pull something out & pass it down. Like a firebucket brigade, the miners hand the thing from one to another, the ones at the front of the line pulling more things out of the hole & passing them along. You are at the end, so you can’t see what is being passed until finally
one reaches you. The miner in front of you turns & with a great smile presents a fresh, warm, pie. These are in the stone? you say. Yes, the miner says. We have been searching for these pies for a very long time. They are the perfect pies. The pies all human pies are only an imitation of. They are nature’s naturally occurring pies. You take the pie. What kind of pies are they? you say. Cherry? Apple? Chocolate? The miner smiles wider. She pulls a knife out & cuts into the pie. A sweet aroma, comforting & enticing, emerges. She cuts a slice of the pie out & hands it to you. At one moment it looks like blackberries, the next peach. The miner gestures for you to take a bite. You take a bite. The flavor of the pie is all good flavors at once: fresh fruit & warm bread & raincloud & memory & joy & more, all at once. You cry unexpected tears from the pie-delight. The miners have by now filled the mine-car with stacks & stacks of pies.. They are taking them up to the surface, for everyone to enjoy.
Paws for Happiness Deanne Gertner
Strong, supportive social connections are a major factor in improving one’s happiness. Science shows that four-legged social support may be just as impactful to relieving stress, anxiety, and loneliness as the two-legged kind. In fact, pet therapy is now on the rise in clinical settings. According to the Human Animal Bond Research Institute, animal-assisted intervention for trauma, specifically Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, shows improvements in both depression and anxiety for the patient. Researchers surmise the benefits may be attributed to an animal’s ability to elicit positive emotions and warmth, quell thoughts of danger, aid individuals in connecting with other people through the animal, and act as a positive external focus of attention. That external focus saved Julie Barton from herself. At twenty-two and a year out of college, she collapsed on her Manhattan kitchen floor, severely depressed. Her mom came to help and took her back home to Ohio where Julie worked with a bevy of psychiatrists and therapists to no avail. One day Julie decided to do something hopeful and adopt a Golden Retriever puppy she named Bunker. Her memoir Dog Medicine: How My Dog Saved Me From Myself shows the striking ways animals can help us heal by focusing outside ourselves. This exterior focus may not only improve depression but memory-related disease. Take the Catalina Springs Memory Care Center and Pima Animal Care in Arizona, for example, which was reported on by The Today Show in 2016. Patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia bottle-fed two underweight kittens every three hours for about 10 days. Rebecca Hamilton, health service director at Catalina Springs said, “It was unbelievable how much joy and light these little six-ounce balls of fluff brought to this facility. The residents know they are doing important work and contributing to their community…I think it’s triggering more than memories, it’s therapeutic to have something to love, to hold and cuddle and be loved by.” The Denver Art Museum’s current exhibition Stampede: Animals in Art shows how animals have captivated artists throughout history in a crossdepartmental exhibition that brings together over 300 objects from the Museum’s permanent collection. The “Beloved” section of the exhibit highlights the personal connections, incredible bonds, deep level of companionship, and mutual service between people and pets. The section text states: “Colorado consistently ranks as one of the most petfriendly states, illustrating the importance of pets in our lives and the lives of our neighbors and friends. Connecting with animals can help satisfy emotional and social needs. The works shown here capture these personal attachments along with the personality, quirks, temperaments, and companionship of our pets.” The Museum also participates in the national Hearts for Art program, whereby museum goers are invited to show their love for a favorite work of art by placing a paper heart on the floor in front of their art crush. Sui Jianguo’s Made in China and Yayoi Kusama’s CAN-CAN were the most hearted in 2018: Drawing inspiration from Chinese mass-produced tiny toy dinosaurs, Jinguo transforms the cheap toys into gigantic sculptures, their bellies emblazoned with “Made in China,” a phrase as recognizable and ubiquitous as CocaCola. The shiny, cherry red finish can’t not bring a smile to your face.
Sui Jianguo, Made in China, 2005 Edition 1 of 4. Painted cast bronze. Gift from Vicki and Kent Logan to the Collection of the Denver Art Museum © Sui Jianguo. Photo Courtesy of the Denver Art Museum. Photo by @moietmaviedemaman at the Denver Art Museum.
JUSTIN CUCCI, EDIBLE BEATS (ROOT DOWN, LINGER, OPHELIA’S ELECTRIC SOAPBOX, VITAL ROOT) “If I can make something crave-able, delicious and healthy whilst using clean ingredients and unprocessed foods then not only is my palate happy then my body is happy. To me the key is bringing things together that nourish through color and texture and layers of flavors. Making this kind of food for myself or other people feels like the ultimate challenge because at of the end of the day people want things that are delicious and we usually resort to many ingredients that are not great for us. So if I can make a gluten-free, grain-free, vegan meal that nobody knows is vegan and gluten-free then my soul is happy. Essentially that means bringing together a wide range of foods that might go something like this (basically my dinner most nights – a non-salad salad): Miso Sweet Potato, Avocado, Black Quinoa, Chili Yuba (the skin of the tofu), Cashew Cream, Super Seed Mix, Mint, Arugula, Kale (or any veg you want), Pumelo (or any low sugar fruit)"
Kusama, now an octogenarian, has dealt with mental health issues beginning at age 10. Since 1977, she has lived by choice in a Tokyo mental hospital due to nervous disorders and hallucinations, and considers creating art to be a form of therapy. According to Rebecca Hart, Vicki and Kent Logan Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Denver Art Museum, “Kusama began making life-sized dogs as components of larger installations in 2010, and this sculpture is a prime example. CAN CAN’s wide-open mouth seems to talk or smile, and the dog’s polka dots and vibrant colors are characteristic of her signature style.”
CAROLINE GLOVER, ANNETTE “Anything that I can cook with my husband at home on our day off! We usually like to go with something quick and easy and healthy -- that way we can spend more time together enjoying the meal. One of our favorites is quinoa with roasted vegetables and chimichurri and any type of cheese we may have on hand.” ALEX SEIDEL, FRUITION & MERCANTILE DINING & PROVISION “I love rotisserie chicken and vegetables. It’s a meal that makes everyone happy and it’s healthy and easy.” JASON SHEEHAN, FORMER FOOD CRITIC FOR THE WESTWORD AND CURRENT WRITER FOR PHILADELPHIA MAGAZINE “There is a Mexican restaurant somewhere out west--somewhere close to I-25, between Albuquerque and Denver. It has fuzzy neon, hard plastic chairs, late-night hours, chips and salsa on all the tables. I don’t remember the name, the town, the night I was there. My memory of it is faded and dog-eared like an old Polaroid that I’ve held and stared at and carried with me for years. Fried tacos, cold beer, salty chips and two people sitting at a table by the windows, that’s all. Me and my wife before she was my wife, fingers barely touching, smiling idiot smiles of young, dumb love in the glare of passing headlights smearing across the glass. In that frozen moment exists everything that matters to me about food--love, memory, connection, longing, surprise. The insubstantiality of memory. The beautiful wonder of the now. Plus, if I remember right, the tacos were pretty good, too.”
Yayoi Kusama, CAN-CAN, 2010. Fiberglass, plastic, urethane and paint; 38-1/2 x 52-3/4 x 23-1/2” Collection of Robert and Lisa Kessler. © Yayoi Kusama. Photo Courtesy of the Denver Art Museum.
My Happy Meal
Chefs and foodies weigh in on the things that make them happy to eat and happy to make. FRANK BONANNO, BONANNO CONCEPTS (MIZUNA, OSTERIA MARCO, BONES, GREEN RUSSELL, ETC.) “If I’m cooking for someone else, pasta makes everyone happy. For me there’s a Zen to the rolling, cutting, and shaping—an art that calms and centers me. Then there’s a sort of good magic in sharing something that requires that kind of focus and let be. Even the act of sharing is an act of happiness. . . If I’m alone though, and it’s late at night in the cool of the kitchen after work, it’s pizza all the way. Who doesn’t smile over pizza??”
Tomato-Colored Glasses Nash Garton
Honestly I take Tomato cosmology Quite Seriously I wake in the morning and think about tomatoes. I sleep at night and dream about tomatoes. I view the world through tomato-colored glasses, and that makes me happy. Instead of seeing food for sale on a grocery shelf, I see a long history spanning across centuries, peoples, and places. Tomatoes are not just a commodity. Tomatoes are culture. Tomatoes help me engage people in a more constructive and authentic way, and they constantly introduce me to new opportunities and interests. I use the tomato as a tool for creating positive interactions with the world. From now on, I’ll connect the dots in my own way. -Bill Watterson The majority of people on the planet would immediately recognize a tomato. They are delicious and nutritious. They are a staple ingredient
in cuisines around the Earth, and they are an economic pillar of many communities. Over 100 million tons of tomatoes are grown worldwide every year. They are processed and consumed in every imaginable way. Tomatoes can be concentrated, baked, roasted, pickled, powdered, fried, stewed, sun-dried, and fermented. I prefer to munch them right off the vine with a splash of olive oil and a shake of salt. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates the average American eats over 22 pounds of tomatoes a year. Hungry Dutch sailor Tomatoes and pickled fish Catsup or Ketchup? This tomato-flavored condiment is the quintessential example of tomatoes facilitating cultural exchange. Towards the end of the 17th century, European sailors in Asia were exposed to a pickled fish sauce called “kêchiap.” The sauce evolved to include sugar and tomatoes as it was shared across the globe. By the 19th century we had the modern condiment ubiquitous to diner-table tops today. Ask somebody if they like tomatoes, and usually they respond with a story. The narrative of humans and tomatoes has been intricately woven together for thousands of years. After Spanish conquistadores and missionaries introduced the tomato to Europe and the Pacific in the 16 century, it didn’t take long for the tomato to grow into a global force for cultural exchange. History is littered with anecdotes and treatises large and small regarding tomatoes (this endeavor hopefully not least among them). It is appropriate that one of the earliest primary sources describing the pre-Columbian tomato was a Spaniard dubbed the world’s first anthropologist. Bernardino de Sahagún was a Franciscan friar in 16th century Central America. Sahagún wrote several treatises on Aztec culture, and included in his scholarship the world’s first salsa recipe: [They] sell foods, sauces, hot sauces… sauces of juices, shredded with chile, with squash seeds, with tomatoes, … sauce of large tomatoes, sauce of ordinary tomatoes, sauce of various kinds mixed with sour herbs -Sahagún, recorded 1545 -1590 translated 1950 -1982
as poisonous and associated with witchcraft in 16th century Europe. This led a German botanist at the time to reference a local folktale when naming the tomato genus Lycopersicon, or “wolf peach.” In the folktale, a poisoned peach was used as bait to capture a particularly malevolent werewolf. Tomatoes have produced many examples of real-world success despite their past as misunderstood tragic fables. Long drive to the top Radiator Charlie’s hill Golden tomatoes In the 1930’s, a mechanic by the name of Marshal Cletus Byles lived on a hill in Logan, West Virginia. He was known to the locals as “Radiator Charlie,” a nickname he earned refilling the fluids of overheated jalopies tired from the climb up to his shop. Charlie planted some of his favorite tomato varieties in a big circle behind his home, and he spent years carefully breeding together the strongest among them. The result was a large rose gold-colored tomato that was meaty and sweet. Radiator Charlie’s tomato seedlings were wildly popular, and they sold so well that he was able to pay off the mortgage on his farm at the height of the Great Depression. That particular cultivar of tomato has been called “Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter” ever since, and is still commonly grown today. I had several in my backyard last summer. My life is a dot lost among thousands of other dots. -Yayoi Kusama When I look around, I see a universe of soil and foliage speckled with red, orange, and yellow dots. My tomato-centric outlook doesn’t cloud my vision. Rather, it focuses it like a lens. The capacity of the tomato to connect the global with the personal is my favorite part about them. The story of the tomato and the human race continues to unfold towards a happier future. Humans and tomatoes are already spending time together on the International Space Station after all.
The Aztec believed the tomato was both sacred and tasty. The Native Americans would give baskets full of the fruit to newlyweds as a fertility offering. The word tomato is an anglicized version of the term tomate, which in turn is a Spanish appropriation of the Aztec word xitomatl. Loosely translated, the Aztec word for tomato means “juicy swollen navel.” Modern botanists have largely agreed with this characterization, as tomatoes are in fact large berries whose fruit is developed from the plant’s ovaries. A tomato walks Into a vegetable bar And says, “I’m no fruit!” In 1883, President Chester Arthur imposed tariffs on imported vegetables but not on imported fruit. A New York vegetable dealer responded with a lawsuit claiming an exemption to the tariff on his tomato sales because they were biologically classified a fruit. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case Nix vs. Hedden, (149 U.S. 304) that tomatoes should be legally considered a vegetable due to the common understanding of its status as such. One justice noted that, while fruit was widely served as a dessert, tomatoes were typically part of a dinner course. I happen to consider tomatoes a fruit as well as a yummy dessert! I occasionally meet someone who has an aversion to tomatoes equally as strong as my passion for them. I don’t necessarily expect people to enjoy tomatoes, but sometimes their distaste can manifest in the extreme. Jesus hates tomatoes - tomatoesareevil.com I think tomatoes are wonderful, but myths about the wicked nature of tomatoes are prevalent and persistent. Tomato leaves do contain some harmful alkaloids like solanine, but the fruits themselves are completely safe for most consumers. The tomato’s sinister reputation can be partially attributed to the scientific title for tomatoes we still use today, Solanaceae Solanum Lycopersicon. The plants of family Solanaceae are commonly referred to as nightshades, and some tomato relatives were well known
Happy City Book Suggestions
Books that will make you smile! By the Denver Public Library. FOR ADULTS
The Happiness Project, or, Why I spent a year trying to sing in the morning, clean my clos-ets, fight right, read Aristotle, and generally have more fun –Gretchen Rubin Puppy Chow Is Better Than Prozac –Bruce Goldstein Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society –Mary Ann Shaffer Where’d You Go Bernadette? –Maria Semple Nine Women, One Dress –Jane Rosen The Book that Matters Most –Ann Hood
Ready Player One –Ernest Cline The Rosie Project –Graeme Simsion Delicious! –Ruth Reichl One Plus One –Jojo Moyes
Happy Home Pushing Carts Under Your Nose Molina Speaks
Spark Joy –Marie Kondō Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things –Jenny Lawson. Hyperbole and a Half –Allie Brosh
FOR TEENS I am the Messenger –Zuzak Dumplin’ –Julie Murphy Let’s Talk About Love –Claire Kann The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants –Ann Brashares Anna and the French Kiss –Stephanie Perkins The Best Kind of Magic –Crystal Cestari Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist –Rachel Cohn A Week of Mondays –Jessica Brody Fangirl or Carry On –Rainbow Rowell Isla and the Happliy Ever After –Stephanie Perkins Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe –Benjamin Alire Saenez The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight –Jennifer E. Smith Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda –Becky Albertalli The Princess Diaries –Meg Cabot Smile –Raina Telgemeier Buzzkill –Beth Fantaskey Boy Meets Boy –David Levithan Will Grayson, Will Grayson –John Green and David Levithan An Abundance of Katherines –John Green Funny in Farsi (NF) –Firoozeh Dumas It’s Kind of a Funny Story –Ned Vizzini
when it is dreary outside finding happiness in the city that is ripping the future out from under you and your neighbors’ feet, reality erasing the homeless, zero jokes and no traces of cynicism : you turn inwards, outside: upside down, you focus on home and you find
little! fingers! little! toes! little! thoughts! little! roads! imagination dreamcodes drifting you out the back door into sandboxes of hope where Denver’s little beings float like the clouds morphing moments into stories that blow little bubbles little words little roars little purrs spaceship-sized passions for little things the big zings blur—
whistling whirring wishing whirling worlds unfurling multiverse is swirling little steps and little questions with giant declarations little love little love you have all my gentle patience—
“stop!, do you hear it papa, you hear the music? it’s not the music from the speakers,
yes little one it is the music of life you must not lose so
you hear the music?!”
we walk we skip we leap we run we laugh we pause we watch the leftover street people’s art of life pushing carts, familias playing futbol with the spirits in the park, black jazz on Juneteenth n’ Pow Wow feathers drumbeat sparks
the flower trees bloom the summer sun booms the yellow leaves fall then we eat falling snow juice we paint without rules dancing circles all day night long tracing moon cycle movements singing all the people’s songs while the cranes drone away and jackhammers drill all day the city’s jewels are two feet three feet four feet tall n’ some change colors pushing lion carts down sidewalk worlds of little magic’s fame easy. to. miss. among. the. gray. suits. and. brief.cases. chasing. profits. is. it. progress. is. it. logic. some. market. force. that. can’t. be. stopped? but this happy little poem! the city’s gems live under bulldozers’ noses in future form the hearts of homes! do giants stop to smell the roses?
Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging (and the rest of the series) –Louise Rennison Boy’s Don’t Knit –T.S. Easton Fresh Off the Boat –Eddie Huang FOR KIDS The Secret Garden –Frances Hodgson Burnett The Jolly Postman –Ahlberg Have You Filled a Bucket Today? –McCloud The Story of Ferdinand –Munro Leaf Matilda –Roald Dahl The Neverending Story –Ende Fantastic Mr. Fox –Roald Dahl Harry Potter –JK Rowling Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures –Kate DiCamillo The Wonder Book –Amy Krouse Rosenthal Little Treasures: Endearments from around the world –Jacqueline K. Ogburn Pass it On –Sophy Henn
Chinn Wang, SunSkyline
How to be Happy (according to your zodiac sign) Luke Dani Blue
Each zodiac sign has its own idea of what happy means—and whether it even matters. To Cancer, happiness is pressure-free family time (a sack of tater tots doesn’t hurt either), while Gemini is A-OK so long as boredom can be outrun. Scorpio prefers pain to fun (is there a difference?), and don’t ask results-oriented Capricorn about happiness unless you want a big, fat eye roll. You might never hit someone else’s measure of happiness. You might be biologically programmed for depression, or just value peace or presence more (I see you, Pisces). Astrology says yes, a thousand times yes, to tossing other peoples’ yardsticks out the window (so long as you don’t whap anyone in the head). Astrology is the universe’s ultimate you do you, baby. Making your sun sign smile, in its own special way, is all about building confidence, embracing your natural talents, and watching out for your ego. No idea where to start? Lucky you. I wrote a handy cheat sheet. Aries Special Talent: Leadership; creative fire-starter; go-getter, rarely held back by others’ opinions. Ego Monster: Thinking cooperation and compromise will turn you into a loser. Build your confidence: Grab onto one idea and stick with it until you reach your goal. You woke up inspired about starting a life coaching business, went online and researched, paid for your business license and 45 minutes later, you’re… canning 8,000 pickles??? Stay focused, Aries! You’re a star at starting, but you win when you see those ideas through. Taurus Special Talent: The unstoppable force of a boulder rolling down a mountainside; creator of bodily pleasures and beautiful objects. Ego Monster: Pathological stubbornness. Build your confidence: Build on what you value most. A Taurus who values sweet treats can become a pro baker simply through pleasurable hours spent baking and sampling delicious cupcakes, tortes, tarts, and layered confections. Remember, though: healthy growth keeps you strong. To continue mastering your yummy trade, you’ll need to adapt your style to include helpers. Gemini Special Talent: Ask the best questions, get the most interesting answers; flexible; tricky; multitasking genius; verbal acrobat. Ego Monster: Recreational manipulation out of a dread of boredom. Build your confidence: Explore your many curiosities through diverse means— discussions with friends, grocery store cashiers, your mom’s best friend’s kid’s babysitter, the internet, books, movies, teaching, writing. Dodge mental junk and nihilism by spending the most time on your meaningful interests and taking breaks to think through what you’ve gathered. Cancer Special Talent: Emotional intelligence; creativity; gift for nurturing others; understand peoples’ needs; good with little kids. Ego Monster: Needing your feelings recognized at all times. Build your confidence: Mother yourself by developing awesome emotional skills, including loving limits on self-indulgence. An extended bad mood doesn’t need to derail your partnership when you trust yourself. Sacrifice instant comfort for what benefits you and your people over the long haul. (It’s what a good parent does.) Leo Special Talent: Entertainer; imagineer; born performer; leader; being your special shiny self; romance; basically everything, you jerk. Ego Monster: Need for attention from your chosen audience (one-person audience counts). Build your confidence: You’re at your best when you show up exactly as you are and feed others the positive vibes you want to receive. Authenticity—especially when it exposes your weakness—and acting out of love wins you life’s standing ovation. Virgo Special Talent: A jeweler’s eye for detail; problem-solver; health and diet guru; all-around smartypants. Ego Monster: Self-worth rests on getting it exactly right. Build your confidence: Reduce anxiety by deflecting attention from your self to your work. You can handle critical feedback (no one could be as cruel as your inner editor) and contributing your skills to an interesting, worthwhile project,
whether a PTA that works on behalf of students or a music video that happens to need a dancer-slash-singer (hello, Beyoncé Virgos), makes you glow from the inside out. Libra Special Talent: Eye for beauty; killer social skills; gift for seeing both sides of an issue (innate legal mind); relationship and pleasure creator. Ego Monster: The need to feel liked and/or reasonable. Build your confidence: Libra loves the buddy system, so embrace your twoby-two talents. Whether you’re a paralegal helping an underdog fight an unfair immigration law, or a poet setting writing dates with a buddy to stay motivated, you feel most fulfilled when you think you’re doing it for someone else. Scorpio Special Talent: Natural psychologist and investigator; human lie-detector; passion; can be incredibly ambitious—will never give up once you discover what you want. Ego Monster: Fear of being overpowered. Build your confidence: Walk into your fears like they’re fire and you love to burn (you do!). Intense experience--falling in love, walking a friend through his grief, conducting a 4-hour opera, leaping from a high dive or taking a vow of silence— unveils your true power (which was there all along). Sagittarius Special Talent: Teacher; preacher; storyspinner; meaning-maker; one-person party. Ego Monster: Thinking you’re right. Build your confidence: You’re on a multi-decade adventure, Sag, and that requires constant discovery and learning. When you get a fat head about how much you know, you lose touch with the sparkle and pizzazz of what you don’t. Challenging travel, reading or study shakes you out of your assumptions. The more you open up, the more connected to others and to life you’ll feel. Capricorn Special Talent: Turning chaos to order; can see the big picture and figure out how to get there; unbeatable determination; patient mentorship (when older). Ego Monster: Obsession with maintaining control (over what you care about). Build your confidence: You know what you want but you overestimate how hard getting there will be. You’re the architect of your own process, so build it in a way that incorporates love, friendship, learning and opportunities to let loose and make productive mistakes. Aquarius Special Talent: Originality; expert people-watcher; intellectual insight; work & play well in groups. Ego Monster: Sense of superiority. Build your confidence: You tend to live from your head and a few steps into the future. To feel seen and competent and to stay motivated, you need to do something concrete with those wacky/genius ideas. Your results won’t be exactly what they looked like in your head, but you’ll have the thrill of a new, exciting experience to bring back to your mental lab. Pisces Special Talent: Compassion; imagination; sensitivity to the unseen; respond fluently to others’ energy. Ego Monster: Casting yourself either as the hero or victim. Build your confidence: Paradoxically, to feel seen, you have to let go of how others see you. Act out the magic world you carry inside, through imaginative play (gaming counts!), religious or spiritual community, or spending time with those society deems invisible. By actively turning your visions into reality, you make yourself real too.
John Cotter & Kevin Caron, Symposium
HAPPY CITY DENVER
ART FOR THE PEOPLE MAY 18 â€“ JUNE 30, 2018
“Ear to Ear” is a one-issue newsprint publication that investigates the concept of happiness through a myriad of perspectives — from scienti...
Published on May 17, 2018
“Ear to Ear” is a one-issue newsprint publication that investigates the concept of happiness through a myriad of perspectives — from scienti...