Joy is ascendant. It is the other-worldly experience of the dove that appears suddenly, floats down to you and with its beak gently pulls away the bonds that tether you. You feel yourself rise and only then realize you’d been bound.
Joy is transcendent. Whatever else was happening on that day or at that moment falls away. You are transported. You are caught up in this thing, this event, this announcement, this realization, this sight for beleaguered eyes as you feel your heart wrapped in warmth, your face alight with the glow of it.
A colleague I worked with years ago used to say that life, to him, was mostly a series of mundane days filled with work, responsibility, and the cares and problems of the day-to-day routine, with occasional moments of great joy, such as the birth of a child. But these moments, he said, were extremely rare, so we should simply soldier on, getting through life as best we can, grateful for those rare opportunities in which to find happiness—though that happiness was fleeting indeed.
I found his cynicism dismaying in light of the fact that he often reminded his circle of friends that he was a man of God, an evangelical Christian who knew exactly what would happen to him when he died. Then, at that time, he would experience true joy.
Well. I guess he’s more patient than I am.
I’ll take my joy now, thank you very much, in this morning’s slow and steady sunrise that was accompanied by movie-trailer-perfect birdsong which rose to a steady crescendo as Thomas and I stood, looking down to the lake, a great blue heron just waking. The first rays of sun hit his wing feathers and lit the copper highlights there. He was so beautiful I nearly cried.
Last week, as Thomas and I hiked in Bogart Park at the same hour, just after sunrise, we took a left instead of a right on a trail we’ve often walked—and we discovered a new trail we hadn’t tried before, one that led up a ridge, then down into a canyon, then around a large meadow. Wildflowers—blue and yellow and red—dotted the sides of the trail as we walked together. I could have brought home an enormous bouquet… but I let them live, as I was living in that moment, able, still, to walk two miles with my dog at dawn, to breathe deeply, to sense the sun’s warmth on my back through my jacket. On our return, we came upon a small herd of deer. As we strolled silently around a shaded bend in the trail, there they all were, heads up, looking at us as we looked at them. No one moved. The air was still and quiet. Their enormous dark eyes showed only curiosity, not fear, so Thomas and I lingered (as he leaned into my leg, unsure of what these creatures were). Finally, we inched carefully away down the trail, and the deer dropped their heads and went back to grazing.
Thank you, Universe, for the sheer joy in that moment of tranquility.
It has been my experience that these moments of joy are not few and far between. They’re right out there, waiting. We simply have to make ourselves available.