On Aug. 27, the night before Ginnie’s birthday, the moon and Mars lined up side by side, announcing Ginnie’s grand and glorious birthday. Ginnie and I viewed it together, her eyes starry, wondering what I had in store for her big day.
In the morning, as if to wish her happy birthday, a locust clung to the screen of our bedroom window. “Happy birthday, Ginnie!” it seemed to say. Ironically, I had just read about the plague of locusts in Exodus, but this locust seemed friendly.
I pulled out my daily meditation book and, lo and behold, read, “Happiness is a byproduct of right living.” It all came flooding back, how Ginnie and I met. I had written about happiness in my Empty Nest column using the above quote as its basis. Ginnie, living in Ottumwa and single, sent me an email complimenting me on my “Happiness” article, and asking what meditation book I used. Quick like Curtis thinks, I invited her to lunch (to show her the meditation book — ha!). We met at the Riverside Family Restaurant in Ottumwa.
And then a year later, on her birthday five years ago, I got down on my knees in the Riverside Restaurant, in exactly the same booth, and proposed to Ginnie. I had the waitresses sing, “Going to the Chapel” by the Shirelles. I’m not kidding. Fortunately Ginnie said yes.
Back to the present, it was time to open birthday gifts. First, a hand fired platter and bowl made by an artist friend in Macomb, Illinois. Second, a necklace made by another artist friend in Keokuk. Third, a primitive hay-trolley chandelier for our kitchen, made by an artist in Downing, Missouri (we obviously support the arts); and fourth, a two-night stay in a cottage in Bentonsport on the Des Moines River. I spoil her.
We found the cottage one Sunday afternoon when we were driving through Bentonsport. Ginnie noticed a sculpture in a yard and said, “That looks familiar.” I stopped the car and looked. Sure enough, the sculpture was familiar — it was mine! Not being able to contain myself, I pulled in the driveway. The people were out in their yard. I introduced myself and said that the sculpture they had was one I made. They said, “Yes, we have three of your sculptures!”
Well, that was just overwhelming. And here I was thinking about giving up sculpture making. Maybe I should rethink that.
One thing led to another. The people have a cottage they rent, and we reserved it for Ginnie’s birthday. It’s on Wall Street in Bentonsport. Yep. Bentonsport has a population of around 40, give or take. Wall Street in Bentonsport does not look bullish or bearish. If anything, it looks birdish — the hummingbirds and Baltimore Orioles are quite active, the hummingbirds high on sugar water and the orioles on grape jelly.
Bentonsport is ideal for a relaxing, peaceful getaway. You can walk down to the river, cross the bridge to Vernon, and view the old schoolhouse which was once the home of artist Wendell Mohr. On Sunday afternoons the young Amish go courting, and drive their horse drawn buggies through town, one hand on the reins, the other arm around their sweetie, boom boxes blasting heavy metal. What’a scream! Cell phones can be seen flashing. For dinner, slip over to the Bonaparte Retreat in Bonaparte for rib-eye steak or jumbo shrimp. A morning jog or walk along the river sets the pace for the day.
I’m going to amend my formula for happiness. Not only is it a byproduct of right living, happiness usually involves someone to share it with, especially when the moon and Mars line up side by side.