Two of my friends returned from separate trips to New York last month.
“So how was it?” I asked each of them on their return.
“Fantastic,” said Rosemary, who is the deputy editor of NZ House & Garden.
“Bit average,” said Laurie, who belongs to my early morning running group.
Now both Rosemary and Laurie are organised types: they had planned their trips in advance, worked out the must-sees, compiled shopping lists. The difference was that Laurie flew into the path of Hurricane Sandy, which wrecked her plans to run the New York marathon and half-closed the city. Rosemary went a week later when things were humming again.
And that, of course, is the way of holidays. Some are great; some aren’t. Which kind you get often comes down to dumb luck. Have a happy holiday, we say to one another at this time of year, but it’s a wish not an instruction. We all know happiness can’t be organised. It comes or it doesn’t. It visits pretty much at random.
It is, in fact, a bit like the inspiration for these editor’s letters, which I write every couple of weeks (once for the magazine, once for the email newsletter). Sometimes I rattle them off in 30 minutes flat. Other times they seem to take forever and I wonder how real writers deal with the agonisingly fickle business of waiting for the muse.
I was interested, then, to hear poet Bill Manhire talk about this very thing on Radio New Zealand the other day. You shouldn’t just wait for the muse to visit, he said, you should make time and space and get yourself in the right frame of mind. What he actually said was, “You prepare the room, light the fire, pour some wine” and invite the muse in.
I like the image, particularly because it seems to me it applies, in a more literal way, to what homemakers all over the country are doing right now. We are preparing our homes and baches, pouring wine, inviting happy holiday times to visit.
We all know that our efforts might not pay off – the most perfect setting in the world is no guarantee of a happy holiday. But, as Bill Manhire says, it is better than doing nothing. And sometimes just contemplating the possibility of holiday perfection – curling up with this magazine and dreaming about being in the idyllic beachside bach on page 16, for example – can be enough to deliver its own moments of happiness.
Have a great holiday. Hope happiness visits your place.