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Those Blue Bayou Moments

April, 2019

Umbrellas in Paris   Photo by Martha Clark Scala

​​How Happenstance Can Lift Us Up

I wasn’t just sitting on the Pity Pot two weeks ago, I was carrying it around with me, like a big sack of potatoes, in the grocery store.

The reason I was on the Pity Pot is totally irrelevant. We all go there and more often than not, our self-pity has some justification.

I learned that from my brother Nick. I remember telling him I didn’t feel I had the right to complain about something because my worries and upsets paled in comparison to his dramatic medical battles. He replied by telling me not to compare and offered up a really helpful phrase, “your pain is your pain.”

I was certainly feeling my pain that day in the grocery store, even if I knew it was a blip compared to others’ current woes.

And then, happenstance saved my butt.

As my grocery checker pulled each item across the scanner, I heard Linda Ronstadt’s voice come through the store’s speakers, and felt an immediate lift. She was singing “Blue Bayou” (written by Roy Orbison and Joe Melson) and without a single self-conscious thought or hesitation, I started to sing with her.

I'm going back someday Come what may To Blue Bayou Where the folks are fun And the world is mine On Blue Bayou Where those fishing boats With their sails afloat If I could only see That familiar sunrise Through sleepy eyes How happy I'd be

My grocery checker didn’t even blink. He started to whistle along!

Hearing Linda, I was transported to London, England where I spent my junior year abroad, in 1976-1977. By happenstance, I walked by the box office of the New Victoria Cinema where there was a notice posted that Linda’s concert on November 23rd was sold out. A second concert date (November 24th) had been added to her tour, and tickets had just gone on sale.

I didn’t hesitate. I bought a solo ticket for the front row. And Linda did not disappoint. It was a spectacular evening during a pretty darned fabulous year of my life.

When I told my grocery checker this story, his face lit up, and he told me about a favorite concert-going experience of his.

Strolling with my cart out to the car, I realized my pity pot was nowhere in sight. Poof! I sent a silent word of gratitude to Linda Ronstadt, the grocery store, and my music-loving grocery checker, too.

This is how happenstance can shift a mood. Revisiting a special memory can alter our outlook, too. I often scan through photos taken on recent trips, or more ancient family pictures, to adjust my attitude.

Speaking of happenstance, a friend of mine sent me a magnificent prose poem by Mary Oliver. It arrived in my inbox the day after my “Blue Bayou” moment in the grocery store. The synchronicity of this message was not lost on me.

Don’t Hesitate

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happened better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

~ Mary Oliver

Here’s hoping Mary Oliver’s brilliant words have the same effect on you.

Please feel free to share a comment or story about an unexpected turn of events that lifted you off the Pity Pot: scroll to the bottom of this page.



Front Cover of Assembling a Life by Martha Clark Scala

Assembling a Life: Claiming the Artist in My Father (and Myself), is now available as an e-book via AppleBooks. If you prefer to read books electronically, or to save a tree, this is your opportunity to enjoy the book and its bounty of photographs on any Apple device.

To purchase the premium softcover version of Assembling a Life, or to find out more about this book, click here.

For an AppleBooks e-book version of Assembling a Life , click the Apple Books button.


Prompts For Joy

A friend of mine recently sent me a picture of baby birds in a nest right outside his front door. His photo reminded me of the Spring of 2011, when we had a hummingbird’s nest right outside our sliding glass doors. I decided to share the videos we made about Helen the Hummingbird with my friend. Before sending him the links, I went and watched the videos again. This, too, happened on a rough day. The videos brought tears of joy, and once again, completely changed my mood.

Moral of story: follow your own good advice. In this case, Prompts for Joy lifted my spirits. They might lift yours, too.

Click here for this repeat of “A Spring Surprise.”

Click here for this repeat of “A Spring Surprise, Part II”

Click here for all previous Prompts for Joy.


Pictured Above

"Imagining Mary Poppins." One of many photos recently taken in a courtyard spotted by happenstance in Paris, France.

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