Guilty happy: a sunny winter day between storms

Photo of two mauve gumboots, an empty flower pot and an outdoor broom in a porch.
Sorry, gumboots, but you’re not going out on this sunny winter day

So it’s a calm, sunny winter day after a week of wild winds and thunderous rainfall. I feel a guilty happiness, enjoying what so recently was normal. The country has been in chaos β€” yesterday was all about flights cancelled, ferries cancelled, floods and landslides. More hideous weather is forecast for the coming week.

But today I can do my normal Saturday morning things without a struggle. No exciting, exotic adventures are planned but I can’t help appreciating this day of winter sunshine with a guilty happiness.

A metal rooster weather vane perched on the roof of a concrete block apartment building. Blue sky above.
The rooster across the road has reason to crow at this unusual sky

The metal rooster across the street looks perky today, and no wonder. It’s sunny, and he gets a rest when the gales stop for a while.

I’m a footpathophile (not a footpathopath, more of a footpathologist) and there’s plenty to see when you’re not struggling against a very wet wind. Just noticed this piece of fresh tar has a mauve frame, same as my temporarily abandoned gumboots.

Photo of city footpath. Young man walking with a cellphone. A rectangle of fresh tar is outlined with pink or mauve paint
Does this piece of footpath have a mauve outline or a pink one? And why?

Better stop pausing for artistic shots or I’ll be late for Pump class at the gym. But hey, here we have multiple twigs all over the footpath. Who dropped them? Oh, the huge old pohutukawa of course. She can spare a few.

Photo of a huge tree trunk behind a wooden paling fence
Massive pohutukawa tree in a front garden

So I got to the gym and for the first time did the whole class wearing a mask. Most of the time I was working too hard to think about it.

Now for a coffee at the beach next to the gym. No swim today: looks gorgeous but even Wellington Harbour is polluted after storms, sorry to say. But it’s so lovely sitting outside, watching the winter sun on the water, communing with families out for a walk. I lost count of the men pushing prams: that’s their thing on a Saturday morning.

Man pushing a pram, small child running on a boardwalk beside a beach
Saturday sun shining on a city beach (Photo shared with permission)

Then I did what you’ll think is utterly boring and ordinary: shopped at the supermarket and got a bus home. But there’s pleasure to be had in the ordinary. My favourite Courtenay Place building was still in the same place, posing, willing to be admired.

Lime green Metlink bus parked in front of a tall, narrow, imitation Greek heritage office building.
The Adelphi Building posing near the bus stop

Off the bus and I pass my friend’s house, where the storm has deposited a smiley face on the moss-riddled footpath. Just in case I forgot to appreciate this lovely winter Saturday.

Photo of a mossy patch on a footpath, with leaves and twigs resembling a smiley face.
Twigs on moss on footpath smiling at passers-by.

How dare I be happy?

I was so happy with my ordinary Saturday morning that I had to wrestle with guilt. Two selves inhabit me. One is horrified and terrified at the effects worldwide of the climate crisis. One is whispering in my ear, “How lucky, how blessed, how divinely over-privileged you are to be alive on this magical planet, now, here, this minute, and for the past 82 years!” The other is muttering, “How dare you be happy! It’s not right, it’s not fair, it’s not ethical, it’s crazy to be so happy about a still and sunny winter day in 2022.”

How about you? Am I odd to suspect that happiness is actually heightened by our disastrous global situation? I feel very weird about this. Is this guilty happiness or (hope not) happy guilt?

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31 thoughts on “Guilty happy: a sunny winter day between storms

  1. Sadje says:

    Enjoy your winter while we enjoy summer.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      It’s the right way to go.

      1. Sadje says:


  2. My favourite saying is “Every day above ground is a good day.” I refuse to link it to age but rather that life events have taught me each day is precious and SLOW is good (walk, bike, sit …) As Goethe said: “NOTHING is worth more than this day.”

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I do like your Goethe quote πŸ™‚

    2. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Refusing to link it with age is a lovely strategy, useful every day for other things to. Like a sore thumb πŸ™‚

  3. alison41 says:

    Just be. Just enjoy. Because it can change in the blink of an eye, as we all well know. I enjoyed your photos. As I’m aging, I take pleasure in the commonplace.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I’m glad to hear that!

  4. Alan Ralph says:

    Here in the UK we’ve had several days of up to 40ΒΊC heat. Travel has been disrupted, people have gotten hurt by the heat, sadly a few died too both from heat and trying to cool off swimming in rivers or lakes. For some it has spurred renewed demands for action to tackle climate change, while others are (still) ignoring those calls. Yes, I worry about the future, but you’re right that it’s all the more important to appreciate what we have here and now, because ideally we’d like future generations to be able to enjoy those things too.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      That’s well said, Alan. Thanks.

  5. I like happy guilt.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I will rethink.

  6. Prue says:

    I enjoyed some similar pleasures today! The harbour was so beautiful and calm, mirror like in places 😊 Hard to imagine now those several metres high waves wreaking havoc along the shore line during the last couple of days!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Yes! It’s oh so easy to let it slide to the back of my mind. Which is probably healthy.

  7. We cannot change what has happened, and most of us cannot influence what is yet to be, so we should not feel guilty about what we have or how we feel. What we can do is pass on, or share, our good fortune in whatever way we can, just as you have done here Rachel. Thank you for that.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I’m touched by what you have written here. Thank you so much.

      1. It is my pleasure, and sincerely meant.

  8. josaiawrites says:

    Life is bittersweet, and I find it increasingly so as I continue to age…. So I say we need to absolutely relish the sweet times! Absolutely!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Bittersweet is the flavour. Especially when I struggle with the issues of collective and individual responsibilities.

      1. josaiawrites says:

        Yes, so true.

  9. Suzanne says:

    We all have to grab those sunny moments with gusto. The outlined rectangle is to perhaps make sure pedestrians appreciate the council repay job they accomplished.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      What a cool explanation. Of course! What else could it be?

      1. Suzanne says:

        Repay should’ve been repaving job. How I dislike that auto correction with a vengeance. I suppose you’ve worked that little incorrection by yourself πŸ™‚

      2. Rachel McAlpine says:

        I did indeed. It’s messing with our minds.

      3. Rachel McAlpine says:

        Suzanne, your autocorrect inspired me. (See yesterday’s blog post: A challenge: show autocorrect who’s boss.)

      4. Suzanne says:

        Thanks for the smile, Rachel, and pleased I was an inspiration for your blog post.

  10. ‘Guilty Happiness’ – I get it. Along the same lines as your weather example, this past Spring/early Summer was blissfully dry, sunny, breezy & the ‘perfect’ temperature. It felt like home to me. Where we currently live is usually humid, often dark and I’ve never fully acclimated to the environment.
    I often joke that I’m from a mile high (Colorado) and now live in the swamplands of South Carolina!
    I knew our unusually dry & pleasant (to me) weather was because of climate change and really wasn’t a ‘good’ thing that way…but I relished every moment of it. A kind of carpe diem ‘take it as it comes’ sort of thing.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      You do get it. A few years ago some people would joke about our unusually warm summer. “if this is climate change, bring it on!” I felt deeply uncomfortable about those jokes and could never laugh. But there are sweet spots in the upheaval, and here I am, quietly relishing them even more intensely.

      1. I do not like those jokes either – they’re on the same par as the ones that say ‘What climate change?’ while in the midst of a ‘cold’ snow storm…geesh.

      2. Rachel McAlpine says:

        Geesh is expressive and accurate here.

  11. debscarey says:

    For me in the UK, it was that the high temps had finally reduced down to something more bearable. I know so many people here love – and crave – the sunshine and hot weather, but I struggle with it. Rather than luxuriate in the reduced temperatures, I just focus on feeling relief. During the high temps I have no energy, I can only summon up the required energy to take action when I feel cooler – so that’s how I excuse myself from guilt!

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