Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

happiness is...

The other day I was asked for a photo to use in a profile. When I went looking through mine, I realized they all looked so somber. I didn't have time then to do anything about it, sent the least gloomy of the lot, but thought-- I need some smiling photos. It's not like I'm an unhappy person but somehow when it came to photos, I have been most fascinated by taking them without a smile, rather straight faced.

The problem with straight faced is it then appears unhappy. The mad or sad look of a non-smiling face on an older person might be a product of age. Have you noticed how younger people have mouths that naturally turn up. The older people get, the more the natural mouth ends up down. I don't think this is because young people are happier than old people but more likely a result of the aging body-- gravity, dropping muscles, wrinkles, and lines. But it does not look as satisfied-- even if it is.

In my life, I am satisfied. It's not that I go around singing jolly songs all day, but I am doing what I want where I want. The changes I might like are ones I could make if I so chose. I like writing. I like where I live. I like the people in my life, my pets. Currently I have an outdoor reason for feeling good as each day is getting a little longer.

Once in awhile I come across an article or someone asking questions about how to be happy. I don't spend time thinking about whether I am. I don't think about it mostly at all. I am what I am. There are certainly happy moments that make me aware-- yes I am happy about that.

Writing makes me feel good. When I finished the rough draft for the second novella (which is nearly long enough to be a short novel but I want it to stay a novella), I did a fist bump into the air. That feeling when writing does not last particularly long as there is editing waiting, a few rough places to consider-- and then aspects of the next novella are already running around in my imagination.

In researching for it, I wanted to know more about the demonic world. My daughter suggested I try a series of books called the Iron Druid. Kevin Hearne writes them and the first ones are set in Arizona. Well I bought the first.

With my own writing temporarily finished, I started reading the first Iron Druid... Uh oh. One was not enough. I ended up buying the first four. I might be addicted. These books are in a genre called Urban Fantasy; something I haven't ever read-- knowingly anyway. Hearne did a lot of obvious research as he brings to life the world's gods, goddesses, demons, werewolves, vampires and pretty much any sort of mythic monster you can imagine in his stories of a 2000 year old Druid who is always fighting the bad guys. The reads are fun, lightweight, and especially enjoyable for anyone with a little knowledge (too knowledgeable and they might find fault) of world magical systems and mythologies.

His  monsters, etc. aren't the direction I intend for my third novella but they have let me see the benefit of developing personalities for the 'other' side. Since I want it to be a battle of good against evil encompassing the human and spirit world, I am beginning to firm up what mine might be. As to the heroine, that's still undecided, but the hero enters the trilogy in the second book.

Because I am an agnostic, not sure what exists beyond the human plane, I am always cautious how I treat the subject of evil. Yes, I know some think it doesn't exist. I think though in writing fantasy, it must if there is to be a real conflict. I wish there was a category of Urban Fantasy not in Urban areas ;). Rural Fantasy... Ranch Fantasy.. nah it'd sound like erotica. And my  new novellas won't have the sex scenes in them that I have written for my other books.  When you are keeping a book short, you can't afford scenes you don't need. The action has to move fast and derailing it for long ends up writing a novel.

Finally on this subject of what might or might not be-- I've mentioned other places that our new cat, Raven, watches certain types of television. She not only watches but she assimilates what's happening-- at least from a cat perspective. One day it was an old Errol Flynn movie. We saw her intently turned to it, ears reacting to the action until one of the secondary characters let out a cackle like a witch. It wasn't a witch but it might as well have been as Raven went all Halloween cat on us. I mean back up, tail bristly (wish I could get a photo of it; but when she did it, we were laughing too hard-- and the pose doesn't last long). She ran from the room, then came back around from the kitchen and peeked over the edge of the fireplace hearth to look back at the screen. That's when we decided to turn it off. Errol was cute but not worth a Halloween cat in case that cackle returned.

A few days later we thought the totally innocuous, Puss 'n Boots, a kids' animated film, should be safe. At one point the movie's feline heroine let out a yowl at the male and again Raven, who had been intently watching, leaped in the air and ran into the bedroom to hide. She came back after about five minutes. I am thinking she's like a little kid and TV for awhile will have to be monitored for what won't upset her. I've never seen a cat who literally seems to follow the stories. She not only sees it, but she's curious about it. Now we know she also can get scared by it.

Oh yeah and here are some of the photos I took to try and get a genuine smile for the camera ;)

Well it was first attempt...

not there yet...

it's harder than it looks


14 comments:

Tabor said...

It is hard to take a smiling self-portrait because you feel like a goof ball feigning joy. I have caught my reflection in a car window or the rear view mirror and agree that with the down-turned mouth I look much sadder than I am. I feel great but wished my expression showed that. Perhaps you can get a creative soul to take some candids when you are at a social event.

robin andrea said...

I hadn't ever considered age and gravity before as a force behind the down-turned mouth. That makes so much sense, and makes me feel better about my own face. I always thought it was the accumulation of sadness more than the accumulation of time. I like your photos. I may have to work on smiling more!

Diane Widler Wenzel said...

Smiling, they say, takes fewer muscles then frowning. I am not convinced that gravity adds to the down turn in the lips. With me I would say the frown with down turned lips has to do with sensitivity to light during the day, then swallowing sinus drainage especially at night.

Diane Widler Wenzel said...

Oh yes. On my smiling icon, this picture was taken from 10 yards away and then the picture was cropped.

Diane Widler Wenzel said...

Also my picture was taken after trail walking as fast as I could go for about an hour. The exercise could have relaxed the facial muscles.

Rain Trueax said...

if you relax your face and look at what you see in a mirror, you will see jowls on most older faces and lines alongside the mouth that turn down. None of this relates to happiness. It's aging. children aren't always happy but we start out with mouths that turn up. Observe people for awhile when in stores and you will see it. When I sculpted, I observed all ages of faces a lot.

Taking a picture from a distance definitely helps with reducing visible lines ;) Less detail. I use the webcam where I can control the light. On my left it's all natural from the window and as many lights as I can put on. I really never wanted a widely smiling photo but I have one up here now -- until I get tired of it. I tire of my own photos fast.

Rain Trueax said...

oh and on that old saw on smiling taking less muscles, here's what Snopes says about its origin and truth-- smiling or frowning more work?. My feeling is what we most want is not a smile all the time as that seems rather phony. We want a pleasant expression that denotes neither constantly being high or down. It takes some work to maintain just that some days lol

OldLady Of The Hills said...

It's odd, but in my Baby Picture, my mouth is turned down....lol! Somehow along the way, it got turned up and now....Well, age has certainly turned it down again. Oh well.....

Maybe it just isn't natural to you to take a smiling picture...I don't think it means you are unhappy....it's just how you feel comfortable being photographed....

Raven sounds like such a unique delightful kitty---I love that she actually watches Television, and is truly involved....!

Ingineer66 said...

We have a dog that watches TV if there are animals on. Even if it is something like an elephant walking by, she will come in and stare at the TV. The refresh rate of the new high def TV's allow animals to see the screen where old TV's did not work so well.

Rain Trueax said...

that has to be it, ingineer, but our other cat pays no attention to it. It's funny though when they watch.

Ingineer66 said...

We have another dog that couldn't care less about the TV so I guess it is just certain pets that watch.

Tara Crowley said...

that book series sounds great - going to put on my list. I read another series of "Urban Fantasy" genre a couple of years ago, took place mostly in San Francisco. OF COURSE I cannot remember the author or title of books. (Age)

I am doing a presentation for my photo class tomorrow on - portraiture! How timely your post. Selfies are indeed more difficult than they seem. I've been really happy with some of mine, but they were the result of a lot of shots, retakes, editing, etc.

My sis has a cat who loves t.v. -- she has cat videos to keep the lil' bugger happy!

Kerry said...

Ha! I've had a couple of smilin' selfie sessions that produced a bunch of fake-happy pics of myself. However I don't think yours are that bad.

Must find Puss N Boots and show it to the cats, because occasionally they are into movies. Is it the HD that Ingeneer refers to? I wonder.

Rain Trueax said...

I don't think our version was that special, Kerry. But it was the yowl of the female cat when she first met the male. Up until then she was just watching. I think Raven reacts more to animals in the movies-- other than that one lady with a cackle ;) And as an old movie, it sure wasn't HD. She also liked Legends of the Guardians with all the owls. Sometimes she has gotten up on the sideboard where the TV sets and tries to figure out from where the image is coming