Positive edition

Five things that make me happy

By Tom Seymour | May 04, 2017

While the old proverb says that money is the answer to all things, the things that make me happiest aren’t for sale. Here are five things that make me truly happy.

Hummingbird return

Some years ago, an anonymous reader sent me three hand-painted porcelain hummingbirds. What this person had no way of knowing was that these little hanging ornaments would become part and parcel of an annual ritual.

Since hummingbirds are among my favorite birds, I keep a nectar feeder going throughout the season. And when the little birds finally leave in early fall, a feeling of emptiness overtakes me. But the little porcelain hummers quickly take their place. Each of these beautifully crafted birds hangs from the doorframe over my glass front door.

So now, even while the real hummingbirds are sipping nectar from flowers down in tropical climes, I can still enjoy my ersatz hummingbirds. The real joy comes when, in spring, a hummingbird appears seemingly from out of nowhere, hovering in front of my door, imploring me to set up the feeder.

So up goes the feeder and down come the porcelain hummers. When the newly arrived hummingbird begins sipping nectar from my feeder, my heart fills with joy. The cycle of the season has brought my favorite little friends back and nothing makes me happier.


Everyone likes listening to music, but I enjoy playing music far more. In my younger days, a life on the road as a country-rock musician appealed to me but now, my musical tastes have changed. My Scottish heritage long ago reached out and touched me, causing a desire to learn to play the highland bagpipes.

After some years in pipe bands, my musical tastes got even more fine-tuned and I took up the uilleann (Irish for “elbow”) pipes. These are a solo instrument, powered by an arm-driven bellows, best-suited for indoor playing. The difficulty involved in learning far exceeds any instrument I have ever dealt with. But after 10 years of constant practice, I am now an uilleann piper. And all the effort was more than worth it.

These pipes have a two-octave range, as compared to the highland pipes' nine-note scale. Also, uilleann pipes have something called “regulators,” tubes that lie alongside the drones and have keys, something like an alto sax. With these, it is possible to play cords along with the melody.

Some of the tunes I now play took years to perfect. And to add to the difficulty, the pipes are notoriously capricious. Having cane reeds, weather, humidity and temperature all have a bearing on the sound. So when, after working on a new tune, the pipes come into their own and everything clicks, the feeling of pride, accomplishment and most of all, happiness, is hard to define.

Sitting alone in my little cottage at twilight, playing the pipes and letting the music carry me away has to be one of the most joyful experiences I know.

A smile

Smiles make me happy. Not necessarily my own smiles, but smiles by others, smiles precipitated by some little kindness on my part.

I like making others happy and delight in providing produce, both wild and homegrown, to those who cannot get out and harvest their own. Fiddleheads are one of those little niceties and I have my list of people who love getting some fiddleheads each year.

The people on the receiving end always break out in wide, happy smiles and nothing pleases me more. It’s so nice to be able to do for others and make them happy.

Come spring

Spring usually arrives in fits and starts. False hopes are dashed by late-season snows and freezing temperatures. But each year, spring finally descends upon us in a big way and we all know there’s no turning back.

On this day, people drive around for the first time that year with their windows rolled down and radios blaring. Tee-shirts and shorts replace bulky winter clothing. And people sit outside, basking in the warm afternoon sun. Some may even partake of a spur-of-the-moment barbecue.

This is a special day, made even more special by all the waiting and hoping that prefaced it. Finally we rejoice in warm weather, that unique smell of newly thawed earth, green shoots of crocus and snowdrops peeping out of the ground. It’s all incorporated into this one, memorable day.

For me, it suffices to bring a folding chair out from storage and sit in front of my cottage, soaking in the warmth and comfort of the coming season. Even birdsong becomes more marked, no longer tenuous, but strong and full of life. And no matter what the calendar says, this is truly the first day of spring in Maine and it makes me joyously happy.

Summer’s night

It usually happens in late May, or at least by the first week of June. The air has become heavy, carrying smells of flowers from many miles away. Gray treefrogs buzz high atop distant poplar trees and night moths flock to outside lights.

It’s still officially spring, of course, but in reality this night proclaims summer’s arrival.

With warm nighttime temperatures, doors and windows are left open, allowing sweet scents of summer to permeate the indoor air. Soft, gentle breezes die down after sunset and the world becomes still and the night pregnant with happy possibilities. I get the impulse to re-read Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, but turn instead to simply taking in nature’s unfolding pageant; no books, radio or TV disturbs my reverie.

And then I hear it. “Thump.” “Ping.” It’s the sound of Junebugs banging on the window screen. These huge beetles, correctly known as May Beetles, are harmless to humans, although many people go to lengths to kill them. I, instead, welcome them and their clumsy banging into my window screens. After all, these mark the beginning of summer in Maine, and for my money, there’s no better place on earth to be.

Such simple pleasures are what it takes to make me happy. May everyone share a similar fondness for their own simple pleasures.

Tom Seymour of Waldo is a homeowner, gardener, forager, naturalist, Registered Maine Guide, amateur astronomer, magazine and newspaper columnist and book author.

Comments (2)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | May 04, 2017 18:29

I really now miss Maine after reading this article. With spring and approaching summer here in AZ I find flowering desert cactus and mountain tops with sand and desert flowers that are sparse. But I do love it here as warm weather prevails year round and some things at an older age is OK to give up. However I did find it snowed once in the year and a half that I have been here and it melted by noon. No snow truck rumbled by, but nostalgia for Maine sure reared it head.

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | May 04, 2017 15:17

"While the old proverb says that money is the answer to all things, the things that make me happiest aren’t for sale."  Right on, Mr. Seymour.   Image result for You Got It Bro

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