Many years ago I made an artist book entitled Happiness Comes in Waves. It’s a fantastic little book that utilizes one of my favorite structures, the flagbook. It was featured in 500 Handmade Books Volume II. Here’s the text:
Happiness comes in waves, like corduroy lined up ready to hit the shore as clarity, togetherness, contentment, joy. I remember sitting on my board in the deep blue-green, watching the sets of waves lumbering towards me. I waited for the one with the right drop that would give me the ride of my life all the way across the bay.
Learning the difference between the waves that would send me in and the waves that would dump me onto the coral reef straight ahead took practice, courage and faith. The best waves often loomed high above and scared me as they came off their line in the set. To get a good ride, I had to kick hard at the right moment and commit to riding the wave, confident in my choice and ready for whatever it offered.
One particular wave dumped me hard; tossing me between rises, gasping for air, choking on salt and sea, clawing to the surface scared and suffering, only to be knocked under again. My mind knew that the torture of the sets beating me down would end, for only a certain number of waves are in a set. But it was easy to forget this in the midst of the whirling water.
Eventually, the pounding ceased, and I was able to kick back out to the breaking point to wait for the next round. I knew that the ride to the bay, alive with bumps and thrills, pure joy and ecstasy would come.
I’m thinking about this artist book, the day after the solstice, largely because of the words that happened to become part of today’s collage. I wanted to use yellow and the paper with “catch a wave” kept coming into my trial arrangements. The text for Happiness Comes in Waves was written during a time when I needed to remind myself that the “dump” (the technical term for getting tossed off your surf board) into the churning water is part of every joyous ride. You practice, you learn. You begin to master a skill. Yet sometimes, no matter how practiced, primed and prepared you are, something dumps you off your ride. And only you can decide if you are going to get back on that board and go in again.
Last night I built a fire for the solstice and got it going in less than five minutes with only one match, and it was raining lightly. All I could think about was all the times when it took me what seemed like forever to get the fire going. And that’s when these two different metaphors came together for me. Just as I am the only one who can decide to get back on my board, I am also the only one who can light my fire within. I can choose to stay off the board and in the dark, or get on and get that fire going.