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Of Woods and Words: On Snowmobiles and Happiness

FinalCut_OWW_02082012.mp37.97 MB

Almost as soon as he walks in the door each evening, Andy starts talking about snowmobiles. Since the ice fishing began this winter, he's been jonesing badly for a sled of his own. He hasn’t had a snowmobile since giving away a sputtering old machine that once hosted a wasps' nest to a coworker a few springs ago.

Back in the day, Andy says he used to spend winters whizzing around on the snowmobile trails. But considering the price tag of the snowmobile he wants (and Andy's not willing to consider alternatives; he knows what he wants and by gum, that's what he's going to get) it will be next winter at the earliest before a snow machine is a semi-permanent fixture behind our shed. Until then, our winter months will be devoted to silent sports.

I’ve only been on a snowmobile a handful of times, so it’s fair to say I don’t know what I’m missing. Still, we’ve weathered several winters happily and successfully without a snowmobile to either of our names. No doubt a snowmobile would speed up our treks to the fish hole du jour, but owning a snowmobile has little to no influence over whether or not we end the day with a lake trout dinner in our packs.

Despite knowing that a snowmobile is hardly the clincher for our eternal happiness, Andy’s been researching snowmobiles with a passion that borders on the maniacal. As I watch him queue up yet another snowmobile video on YouTube, I can’t help but think about want and happiness.

We want so many things. It seems to be the human condition to always be reaching beyond what we have. The darkness of this especially grey, yet un-wintery, winter seems to make us especially prone to pining for what we don’t have. Most mornings, when I sit down at my desk, it’s all I can do to get some work done rather than just stare through the window out across the lake and think about alternative realities and things I might like to have.

We hear all the time that we should be happy with what we have. But when the sun has taken to showing its face just on a biweekly basis, it’s only a matter of time before the winter blues set in, and lately the blues have been a deep dark navy blue.

It’s easy to notice the things we don’t have. Anymore, a typical evening involves me railing against the too-small, crammed-to-the-gills closet that has once again vomited winter camping gear all over the back bedroom. After that, I stomp out to the living room where I root around the base of a dying houseplant, wishing something other than icicles grew this time of year. Meanwhile, Andy sits placidly on the couch, Googling snowmobile finance plans.

“No,” I say when he looks up from the computer with a glimmer of an idea in the back of his eye. “Just no. We are not buying a snowmobile.”

Snowmobile or no, next weekend we will pick out a spot to fish. We’ll pack up our rods, tip-ups, minnows, and auger and we’ll trek into a quiet lake. We will sit in front of a crackling fire, eating cheese and crackers while watching tip-up flags flutter up.

For whatever reason, when I think of all this, I'm reminded of that Heath Ledger quote from “A Knight's Tale”: "And how did the nobles become noble in the first place? They took it, at the tip of a sword."

How do we find happiness? We take it, whether we have everything we want or not.

Airdate: February 15, 2012

Photo courtesy of Timo Newton-Syms via Flickr.