Everyone knows you can't buy happiness. Even Ginny Sassaman, the Calais artist and mediator who is opening a happiness store in Maple Corner this weekend.
She acknowledges the irony. Sassaman laughed just like everyone else did when a presenter at last year's Gross National Happiness conference in Burlington showed a cartoon featuring a happiness store — because, duh, it's just not something you can buy.
But it got her to thinking: Why couldn't she open a storefront location where people could gather to learn about Gross National Happiness, the Bhutanese concept that a nation's wellbeing shouldn't be measured by the gross national product but by its citizens' happiness?
And so Sassaman's Happiness Paradigm Store and Experience was born. "A happiness store — bright, fun, open and welcoming — could bring a lot more people into this important debate in a joyful way," says Sassaman.
From an A-frame in tiny Maple Corner — the unincorporated village within Calais that made a name for itself in 2002 when local guys got naked for a calendar, which raised $500,000 to renovate the community center — Sassaman will sell art and crafts made from recycled or repurposed materials, as well as books and other items.
She'll also offer free workshops, such as ukelele lessons and jam sessions — led by her husband, Bob, who was featured in a recent Seven Days article on the central Vermont uke scene — and tips on nontoxic cleaning. Half an hour before the store opens each Friday and Saturday, Sassaman will lead group meditation sessions. And at 3 p.m. each day the store is open, she'll take a time out with whoever is there for a 10-minute yoga stretching break.
"One of the things that is so important — it's extremely important — is to have connections with people," says Sassaman. "A lot of people in Vermont are lonely."
For many years, Sassaman made a living as an artist, making watercolor-painted paper earrings, clocks and shadow boxes, before returning to school for a master's in mediation. She designed the mediation program for Home Share Now, a Barre-based organization that matches people looking for shared living situations.
Now she's making art again, and much of it will be available at the store, including holiday ornaments made from reused Keurig cups — she got the machine as a gift, she explains — and "happiness starter kits" made from peanut butter and salsa jars filled with "gratitute journals" made from recycled paper, seashells and other found oddities. She'll also sell art by friends, such as winter hats knitted with yarn from old sweaters and discarded mirrors framed anew.
Oh, and that nudie Men of Maple Corner calendar? Sassaman, like a true recycler, noticed its days will be accurate again in 2013. "Maybe I'll have those in the store," she says. "That will make people happy, for sure."
The Happiness Paradigm Store and Experience, 90 West County Road, Maple Corner. Open Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (with meditation beginning at 9:30 a.m.); Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. facebook.com/pages/The-Happiness-Paradigm-Store-and-Experience/171594482934293