Thursday, October 12, 2023

A Precision Tool: Contentment


When I remove the cork sheath from my Exacto knife’s blade, I always feel a small rush of pleasure. The ease with which the blade slices through paper—even if the cut produces an error—pleases me. Not long ago, I cut a backing for a photo and my dog Chester Muggins, PhD. (his actual name) seemed to share in my pleasure of the work. He was curious of course, a trait which earned him his degree, but likewise I think he intuitively felt my contentment and wished to participate in its benefit.


Contentment as a tool—as an instrument with which to engage in life's work—carves precise slices of joy even through repetitive, challenging, or lonely times and tasks. Recently I officiated at a wedding where a gentleman told me he loved traveling alone or how he could spend hours working in his gardens by himself. Some people I know are frightened of such solitude, but cultivating contentment with one's own company has its usefulness. 

I took the photo above while sitting on a bridge—momentarily no one around—tucking my camera under and against the bridge edge. Most photos taken of Silver Falls on the Ohanapecosh River are of the falls, not the channel downstream. Ohanapecosh, which translates from the Yakima and Cowlitz languages as “Standing on the Edge,” is a place I have wandered both with and without company. My dear husband Gary loved Mt. Rainier and especially the western area of Ohanapecosh. Walking its paths and exploring its edges alone, I intentionally put contentment in my pack. I was content I once shared this place with Gary and content that now I have the bounty of being footloose, snapping photos without regard to time or inconvenience to a companion. At the falls I found contentment by exploring ways to take a self-portrait in the pools of water caught in the crevices of the rocks along the river. I might not have captured this image (which I am very happy with) if I had not been alone.   

At the wedding I mentioned, the couple acknowledged the role of intentional contentment in their wedding vows. Sadie said this: "There are countless big life milestones that I look forward to doing together – but I’m just as excited to continue grocery shopping together, going on evening walks, and having coffee before we go to work. I look forward to every mundane day-to-day thing if it gets me to be by your side." Andy echoed her attention to being content together, making these observations: “I love every second I spend with you… I love how when we see an older couple who seem so in love we look at each other and telepathically say “I want that.”

These two dear souls have sharpened their tools of contentment ever since they first met. When I asked their former boss when she first noticed their relationship might be something special, she said, “At the Christmas party on the night they met.” Their connection was palpable to everyone who saw them together over the next few years. They already look like that older couple who seem so in love. Its lovely when two people bring the skill of contentment, the skill of loving the "mundane" to their marriage. 

Photo Credit: 

May their tools of contentment be ever sharp.