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The Happiest Place on Earth
I recently finished a 600 page biography of Walt Disney. Admittedly, I skimmed parts that went deep into the weeds about the financing of all of his achievements, but I can sum them up for you: without Roy managing the money, I seriously doubt Walt could have achieved a quarter of what he accomplished.
But I digress…
Disney’s life seemed to have three distinct parts: before the war, after the war, and after that. Before the war, he was all about his art and that was his happy place. As he grew more successful, he became a micromanager and had to have things “just so” or else. The war created a challenging environment for him, but with Roy’s help, he continued to ek out a living with government contracts and other assorted projects. As his company grew, so did the dissatisfaction among those who worked for him, resulting in animators going on strike in 1941.
Disney needed control. He lost some of that control after the strike. That said, his studio was making tons of money and growing to the point where he was forced to delegate. In his fifties and after the war, Disney built his family a bigger house and added a real life train that circled his property. I’ve written a lot about midlife and what it does to people. I believe Walt Disney grew bored in midlife. He was no longer consumed by the joy of creating magical animation and there was just too much of it being created by others for him to keep up.
After building his personal life sized train set, Disney began imagining something else and started creating miniature worlds. His ideas for Disneyland developed from his overwhelming desire for a real life world completely within his control; a world that reflected his conservative, nostalgic, and middle class values. A world that was clean and perfect.
During the first few years after Disneyland opened, Disney spent much, if not most of his time there. He’d created his own happy place and was making money by sharing it with others. Jackpot!
We all have the capacity to create our own happy places, even if we don’t have the wealth of a Walt Disney. In fact, if one believes in such things, it is said that we create our own heaven and hell right here on earth.
Most of the time, creating a happy place only takes imagination. Gardens have provided me with a happy place for over twenty-five years. I think I inherited the gardening bug from my grandmother and great-grandmother. There is something truly magical about choosing, planting, and nurturing natural things of beauty, which, as a bonus, are themselves nurturers of the environment.
But let’s not be in denial: gardening can also be incredibly frustrating. There’ve been years where insects and weather pretty much wiped out any signs of progress. This summer has been challenging, but much of the prior hard work has paid off.
In a world that sometimes seems so uncertain, having a personal happy place is more important than ever.