Zufriedenheit – Happiness:
Coming from happy – enjoying
pleasure and contentment.
Related words: joy, gladness,
feeling fortunate or prosperous.
The above was the definition offered in Markus Zusak’s 2005 YA gem, The Book Thief. German phrases are peppered throughout, some defined and others left for you to draw your own conclusions from the context.
[A special thank you to our neighbor, Sandy. The book mysteriously showed up on our dining room table one day. Three chapters in, I realized why. It’s a compelling read about innocence, accordions and love in Germany during the Holocaust as told by a kind, omniscient grim reaper.]
Something about zufriedenheit captivated when I saw it on the page. I was sitting on the back porch of my parents’ house at the time, enjoying the late afternoon shade. I liked the word so much I said it out loud twice more, looking up at the trees and smiling. Try it.
A month later I came back to it when I felt the full extent of my own zufriedenheit.
Let me tell you about the chickens.
Living back in upstate New York, there are either more farms than ever before or I just never noticed them when I last lived here as a teenager. Of course given how often I was at the mall back then, maybe that’s the answer.
The other day I visited a new friend at her family’s farm. She also moved home recently, and is navigating what it’s like being up close and personal with loved ones as an adult. A kindred spirit. I met her in the garden, and not long after her cat strolled by wrapping her tail around my left calf as she passed.
It felt so peaceful there. Their pond, a field of wildflowers for the new bee hive, and a pretty farmhouse that must have a rich history judging by the worn white siding alone.
When we arrived at the bird coop with an assortment of chickens, geese, and ducks, several hens approached and waited patiently at our feet. They seemed to be greeting us in the way pets often sidle up to new visitors hoping for a belly rub or a scrap of food. I looked at my friend, curious, as she bent down in front of one of the hens.
“They don’t like to be petted, but sometimes I do anyway,” she grinned as she ran her hand along its silky maroon and black feathers.
If chickens can do the same full body shake that dogs do when their fur is matted, then that’s what happened next. The hen looked conflicted, clearly liking the attention since she continued to hover nearby and yet not knowing what to do about it.
I reached my hand down several times, but raised myself up again when I saw the chickens tense. If they didn’t want to be touched then I wasn’t going to force it, but I liked their presence a lot. I guess I was conflicted, too.
More birds strutted over and soon surrounded us in a semicircle. Just in case anything good was about to happen, they wanted to be part of it.
As my friend and I started to walk the dirt driveway toward my Civic parked by the old horse stable, all of them followed behind without a sound.
Her father met us near the barn.
“That never happens,” he said, nodding at the birds. “It’s something about you.”
I looked away, trying to hide my glee.
I’m sure it had everything to do with my friend feeding them out of her hand a few days prior, but I couldn’t help hoping her father was right. You see, I have a not-so-secret wish to be Snow White. The part about little birds landing on the end of her fingers as she sang to them. I would also like to be able to sing.
I left a couple minutes later, the birds dispersing as I said goodbye to them and hugged my friend.
As I drove away, I was reminded of a photo of my dad as a kid on his family’s farm.
This is what zufriedenheit looks like.
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