Poetry Friday: “The Work of Happiness” by May Sarton

This week’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Ramona @  Pleasures from the Page 


This Friday feels more hopeful than many Fridays past; I firmly believe that this is due to faithfully watching the Democratic Convention, and hearing words that call to the better angels of our nature.   After three and a half years of watching our democracy being torn down by the people we expect most to protect its foundations, three and a half years of despairing and disturbing news, it was such a relief to be reminded that there are a whole army of good people willing to run for office to restore good government, and an even bigger army of concerned citizens who are willing to work to elect and get these candidates elected.  Joe Biden concluded his acceptance speech with these words: “May history be able to say that the end of this chapter of American darkness began here, tonight as love and hope and light joined the battle for the soul of the nation”, and I said and felt a huge sense of “Whew!”.

Here at the farm I’ve learned to find happiness in small ways – everyday moments of noticing something joyful and moving in the animals and gardens I tend to.  A short stint of teaching summer camp made me realize how much I missed my teaching life, where I found happiness in a “bigger” way: connecting to the young people in my care, and helping to open their eyes to the power of language and of a commitment to social justice.

At the farm, I harvest flowers and vegetables that I’ve grown from seed every day.  I go for walks followed by my beloved flock and faithful dog, pausing every once in a while to scratch a chin, or just take in the view.  When I polish our furniture, I find comfort in the dents and scuffs that mark the chests of drawers, tables, and chairs that we’ve inherited or rescued and refurbished – the signs of the life we’ve shared as a family.  And, I find happiness in the reassuring sounds of nature that is the “silence” of farm life in the middle of nowhere.

I have even learned to find happiness in accepting my need for solitude, for, as the poem says: “But where people have lived in inwardness/ The air is charged with blessing and does bless”.

Happy Poetry Friday, friends!

“The Work of Happiness” by May Sarton

I thought of happiness, how it is woven
Out of the silence in the empty house each day
And how it is not sudden and it is not given
But is creation itself like the growth of a tree.
No one has seen it happen, but inside the bark
Another circle is growing in the expanding ring.
No one has heard the root go deeper in the dark,
But the tree is lifted by this inward work
And its plumes shine, and its leaves are glittering.

So happiness is woven out of the peace of hours
And strikes its roots deep in the house alone:
The old chest in the corner, cool waxed floors,
White curtains softly and continually blown
As the free air moves quietly about the room;
A shelf of books, a table, and the white-washed wall––
These are the dear familiar gods of home,
And here the work of faith can best be done,
The growing tree is green and musical

For what is happiness but growth in peace,
The timeless sense of time when furniture
Has stood a life’s span in a single place,
And as the air moves, so the old dreams stir
The shining leaves of present happiness?
No one has heard thought or listened to a mind,
But where people have lived in inwardness
The air is charged with blessing and does bless;
Windows look out on mountains and the walls are kind.

9 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: “The Work of Happiness” by May Sarton

  1. I sigh with contentment reading this poem, think of you and your pastoral setting, and savor “the shining leaves of present happiness” from the past four days. What a lovely respite it was to listen to such inspiring words again after such a long drought. Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and do the work.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “For what is happiness but growth in peace” – This thought is going to be one of my go-to lines.as I continue to box my treasures for the big move to Virginia. I think back on when you made the big move and hope that I can grow in peace as you did,

    I love that you feel so peaceful: “And, I find happiness in the reassuring sounds of nature that is the “silence” of farm life in the middle of nowhere.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “the dear familiar gods of home.” I am definitely feeling the happiness and peace of this post. I haven’t done so well with happiness. I do let the current events get to me. I noticed myself frowning in a mirror the other day. Not cool. But, if I could read this poem at the start of a day….gather the beginning of one more ring…not sudden but creation. Just a lovely, lovely poem and post. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for sharing this gorgeous poem, Tara. Every line contains wisdom and truth that will help me through the difficult days ahead. Like you, I felt a huge sense of relief after the Democratic National Convention, but it’s easy to slip into moments of despair when lies are flung so flagrantly by so many. I will try to minimize my exposure to the noise. After all, “for what is happiness but growth in peace?”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. In May Sarton’s poem even ” the walls are kind.” Seems like we could use some more of that kindness trickling through–beautiful and thoughtful poem Tara. I grow most of my vegies in my small garden patch from seed too. I’ve had to build a fortress of fence around most due to so many critters wanting to partake–I think I have 2 or 3 Kohlrabi still growing and a handful of beets. I’m open to any suggestions you have to keep the critters away, thanks.


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