The onrush of scenery

The approach to the Golden Gate Bridge, as seen from Marin Headlands, July 2003

The approach to the Golden Gate Bridge, as seen from Marin Headlands, July 2003

“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.”Sylvia Plath

It’s difficult to read this quote from Plath without thinking of the sad reality that she chose to end her own life while still young, with two small children.  Yet I find hope here in realizing that even a person given to fatal depths of melancholia was not completely beyond the reach of happiness.

One thing that helps me in moments of despair is the realization that “this too shall pass.”  When everything seems to be going wrong, or when we are feeling sad or distressed (even if it’s for no particular reason) it’s easy to think we can never be happy again.  But when our emotions tell us our sorrow is permanent, our minds can argue back.

Yes, we can and will be happy again.  Yes, there will even be moments of elation, such as Plath describes.  We know this because we can look into our memories and find both joy and sorrow there.

I think we all have had times when we felt a similar rush of joy.  What are some of those moments for you? Can you think of a place you’ve stood and marveled at the sights spread out before you?  Or a time when you thought “right now, everything feels almost perfect?” I hope you have many such gems to remember, and I hope that this year will bring you more of them.

One year ago today

Talk of mysteries!


  1. sarvjit

    That’s true. The sight of beauty of nature is just breath-taking. It gives a feeling of lightness and creativity. Sylvia Plath also wrote a poem “Mirror”. It explores the truth of getting old.

    • Wow, I just looked up that poem; I had never read it before. Haunting, as so much of her work is. That’s why I was surprised to find a quote like this coming from her.

      • sarvjit

        Yes the lines just bite you. And thank you for that amazing quote from an artist like Sylvia.

  2. HarryS

    A moment of happiness came to me when I read in the Great Big Book and with tongue-in-cheek began to say, “And it came to pass”!

    Well in so many ways it proves to be true!

    • Yes, it does! A blessing sometimes, a sadness others.

  3. Michael

    Did you see the picts of 40 foot waves at Waimea on N.Shore of Oahu? That beach always terrified me and I saw a three year old almost drown there.
    Yes paddling out to the Mokes in the Kayak from Kailua beach. Does not get any better than that.
    There is a line from Life of Pi that stayed with me-“gloom is like the passing shadow of a cloud.” Yes this too shall pass-but it can be quite excruciating pain while it lasts- sometimes life threatening for some- and there is no quick fix.

    • Michael, that’s the same beach where Matt almost drowned when we first moved to Hawaii. He had just turned 8 years old at the time. He could not really swim – only dog-paddle a bit – but loved the water and had no fear. Before I could stop him he ran RIGHT OUT into the waves and a huge one came in and just carried him off. It was terrifying. Luckily my Daddy was with us (an Eagle Scout with a lifesaver swim ranking) and he and another man on the beach managed to get to Matt quickly and pull him in, but I never let him near the water there in fall or winter ever again!

  4. raynard

    Julia, My hope this year is to attend one of those “murder mystery plays near by. When I came off active duty in 1992, I was sent to the former Army base at Presedio. There I seen the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Prison, Had to drive up to Oakland to pick up my car that was shipped from Hawaii for a long drive with a 5 year old back to the East Coast. Let me tie this all in. The old T.V Show “Highway to Heaven, The Last Scene from Shawshank Redemption( the bus ride Morgan Freeman was on to Meet Andy) and last One drive took From Texas to New Mexico.. MY 2014 Cake list is finally coming together. Do you and Jeff eat anything like vanilla, chocolate, lemon, spice, strawberry , pound or spice cakes? ( Man that was a mouth full lol. Be blessed and thank you..

    • Raynard, Jeff and I went to a mystery play at the Kennedy Center called “Shear Madness” and it was really cool because the audience got to talk to the characters and help them solve the mystery. The ending varies each time it performed based on what the audience decides. Very unique. I think it plays there all the time in one of the smaller theaters. I think the Presidio is one of the most beautiful parts of San Francisco. I am glad they made such a good plan to use it after the base closed. Shawshank Redemption is one of my favorite movies. As for cakes, you can’t go wrong with chocolate although Jeff also likes carrot cakes. I’m not too much of a cake person but I will eat chocolate anything :-). Hope the weather takes it easy on you for awhile.

  5. Jenelle

    My husband and I stayed in Yosemite in the fall for our 10 year anniversary. Multiple times we would stop and stare, in awe, at the Lord’s creation and thought how *perfect* life was at that moment. I had a recent feeling this week when my kids, husband and I had a laugh attack just before their bedtime. It was a precious, priceless time. It really put priorities in order and I was reminded how much I appreciate the simple pleasures of life. Being together as a family and laughing is top of the list 🙂 Have a wonderful weekend!

    • Jenelle you have described two very different but equally amazing kinds of bliss. I just love those laugh attacks! Especially when you can’t seem to stop. Yosemite is amazing and I really want to go back, we never did get back there the second time we lived in CA because we wanted to see the other parks first. Thanks for sharing these “perfect pictures” with us! I hope you have many more such times awaiting you!

  6. Jenelle

    I forgot… we live just over an hour from the Golden Gate and I every time I see a pic of it and or the city, I had an urge to go to San Francisco.

    • Yes, the Golden Gate Bridge and surrounding lands never ceased to take my breath away, no matter how many times I saw it.

  7. Susan

    Julia, I remember when my kids were young, reading a book to them about divorce, and one part really stuck with me. It said that sometimes things happen that we don’t like or that we don’t want, and it said, “When this happens, we can change what we want. We can learn to be happy again. ” I thought that was profound. We can choose to re-learn to be happy. Wow.

    • Susan, so true — and sometimes it seems that life is one long lesson in re-learning how to adjust, accept, forgive, re-think, be happy again. The Beatles song “Hey Jude” originally was written as “Hey Jules” to comfort John Lennon’s son Julian during his parents’ divorce. “Take a sad song, and make it better.” I don’t know how people survive without the determination to keep looking for the good. Life can be so cruel at times. Thanks for being here with us!

  8. merry

    good evening, Julia. Lovely photo. Interesting thought…battery running low…

    • Hi Merry, thanks for checking in! Hope you have a wonderful weekend. I’m glad you like the post!

  9. [I had typed in another comment here, but wordpress did not seem to be in a good mood. So here’s my second attempt.]
    The most trivial reasons are enough to make me happy or sad. Sometimes they are so tiny that they are hard to discern. But both pass too quick and I end up in either the opposite or a neutral mood.
    That Plath quote is surprising. Her life and works have fascinated me. One poem I have been teaching for the last 8 years is ‘Mirror’. A short poem but year after year I find the poem more intriguing and my interpretations vary, as I grow older.

    • Bindu, I just hate it when I have an entire comment disappear or not go through! I’m glad you tried again. I agree completely that it’s the small joys and irritations that tend to get to us the most. We brace ourselves for the big things, but the little things seem ultimately to have a bigger impact. A blog reader here mentioned the poem “Mirror” recently and though I’ve read many of Plath’s poems, I had never seen that one. I agree, it’s quite interesting and does have more meaning to me now than it would have years ago; perhaps I read it then and just forgot it. Her life is an interesting one and is, in many ways, a sort of cautionary tale, at least for me. Good advice of what NOT to do! The quote is from her only novel, The Bell Jar so perhaps putting it into a work of fiction, however based on life, gave her a bit of distance that enabled her to write of happiness in the third person (so to speak) through the character’s eyes.

  10. Rene

    Standing on Huntington Beach at about 5 pm, watching dolphins feeding near shore; my mother had always taken us to the beach early & made us leave by noon or 1:00, to avoid the traffic. I couldn’t get going early enough, so I decided to stay late and was rewarded with an amazing sight!

    • Rene, isn’t it totally amazing to see those dolphins? Sometimes when we would be driving down the Pacific Coast Highway to Santa Barbara, we’d see several of them jumping out of the water together and it’s such a thrilling sight. Having been stuck in that HORRIBLE traffic heading north from Newport Beach one afternoon with a friend, I think your Mom had the right idea to leave WAY early, but if you can’t, staying late is nice too – as you found out! I’m glad you knew it was better to stay on the beach than sit in a parking lot on the 405 or the 1!

  11. I’ve never been anywhere near as desperate as Ms Plath but always find a walk with nature is a sure win. As you know, even better with your dog. You can’t help feel happy watching their moments thru a small forest, rejoicing with every scent and the pleasure of your company. If I could live even half my life as happy as Buddy, what a great life it’ll be.

    • Isn’t it wonderful how our dogs continue to make us happy with memories long after they are gone? Just tonight Jeff, Matt and I were talking about how happy Pasha always was to come home to York County. Although we miss him terribly, we smile and laugh to remember how he used to run all through the house from sheer joy at being back here. You are right, their joy is contagious and we are so lucky to have them in our lives!

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