BRUGGER: In pursuit of happiness

I stopped at The City Farmer last month to purchase a new dog leash. Sasha still enjoys a walk even though she is, by the vet’s observation, at least 15 years old.
Apr 5, 2013


We thought she might not make it through the winter, so we hadn’t replaced the old leash which had lost its flex. It no longer retracted; it was either all out, or all in.

Sasha didn’t mind as much as we did, trying to negotiate the snow-covered sidewalks, dodging in and out of the woods along Grand Avenue. Yet, she hesitated at the base of our hill, clearly reluctant to walk up the steep incline to our house. My husband and I trudged ahead of her for the first time in memory, letting her take frequent rests, tugging slightly on the old leash so we didn’t all freeze together in a big lump.

I chose a sturdy leash from the rack on the back wall of the store and placed it on the counter near several pots of tulips — their green tips just beginning to poke through the soil. Envisioning the bright bold blooms, I slid one of the pots next to the leash. 

“Just water them a couple times a week,” Kevin said, “and put them by a sunny window.”

“Water I can find,” I said. “I’m not so sure about sunshine.”

 It was mid-March, I was bone cold and weary, and the suggestion of spring flowers warmed my spirit. At home, I placed them on a table in the living room, watered them and waited.

As Easter approached, the five blossoms swelled with expectation, each a good 8 inches high.  The leaves slowly unfurled and I anticipated the first glimpse of color. 

When they opened, they were not what I’d hoped for: bright red, yellow or deep rose. The petals were the palest of pink, unimpressive, almost sick looking. My momentary pursuit of happiness unfulfilled, I lost interest in the blooms and carried on with my mid-March sulking.

This afternoon, when I sat down on the couch to read, the sun-spot I chose placed me squarely in front of the tulips. I donned my reading glasses, and leaned in to study the flowers I had so vehemently dismissed. One was in its prime, the petals fully extended, a perfect cup.

I looked closer. The hue was a soft shade of mother-of-pearl; almost iridescent, reminding me of crepe paper. If I held one in my mouth, it might melt like cotton candy. The edges furled slightly, delicate, like the lace on my grandmother’s Easter hat.

Now, now, how had I missed this?

Suddenly I was thinking of my mother’s skin, so fragile just beneath her eyes, with a whisper of blush. This harbinger of spring was replete with a magnificence for which I had not noticed. I had almost missed it.

The late James Hillman, a provocative psychologist, was quoted in the July 2012 issue of The Sun magazine: “Just stop a minute and you’ll realize that you’re happy just being. I think it’s the ‘pursuit’ that screws up happiness. If we drop the pursuit, it’s right here.”


Sasha lies at the bottom of the stairs in her own sun-spot. Her coat is letting loose of its winter loft, which makes her look lumpy. When she breathes, I hear a faint rattle in her chest. Her teeth are broken and one protrudes like a snaggletooth.

She is as deaf as a stone. I have to touch her to wake her, which I do now, gently sweeping my hand along her side.

“Want to go for a walk?” We communicate with raised eyebrows and the visible shake of the new leash. She ignores her arthritic hips and scurries across the slick hardwood floor, nearly plowing over me to exit the door.

My old decrepit friend waits for me by the mailbox at the end of the driveway when I run back inside to get my sunglasses.

“Let’s walk the beach!” I call to the one who cannot hear.

She reads my movements and bounds down the hill, glancing back once to see if I’m really serious.

I am serious. I don’t want to miss the blush of spring or the burst of blooms or the lush bounty. I want to see it all, each and every shade of happy.

— By Ann Brugger, Tribune community columnist



Ann, thank you for the lovely story, it touched my heart.


Your lovely piece brings back into sharp focus two memories - the observance of the delicate translucence of an aging mother's skin, and the purity of heartbreak when a beloved companion can no longer do anything but wag his tail, both soon to be gone in springtime with only it's fresh, new creation a source of comfort.

Thank you for this, Ann.


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