Joy in small moments…

I broke a fourth tooth in less than a year, all while eating a bagged lunch the other day.  A lunch that my husband had prepared for me, nonetheless.  I was eating alphabet pretzels when the tooth crumbled, in case you are wondering- creating a taste sensation of unparalleled proportions as it mixed in with all the other crunchy bits and pieces in the process of being swallowed down gulp at a time.  I had originally purchased the bagged snack/teaching tool for my students so as to make learning fun. FUN, I say.  Just like I was having now that my appetite had suddenly vanished.  Glad my little friends never had the joy of eating these tasty little morsels, as they are like crunching on driveway gravel. Particularly when mixed in with enamel.

I have been a bit of a cranky Mama bear lately.  And for good reason.  Turns out I have been grinding my teeth into gunpowder while trying to catch a few zzz’s in the process.  The dentist today remarked on the extreme power in my jaws which would have been flattering if he hadn’t had my mouth propped open with a two-by-four made out of a cotton ball and a piercing bright light shining on the gaping hole in there, further magnifying my chipped teeth and swollen gum line.

I look like a light-weight boxing competitor who has seen better days.  And indeed I have.  Seen better days, that is.

Life is all about perspective, right?  So with that in mind, I set out this evening to find a little piece of joy in nature so as to cast some illumination on an otherwise expensive ($2,200 worth of upcoming dental work), depressing (there goes the camper we were going to buy) and discouraging (I am wondering if false teeth are an option for a 38 year old mother of four) day.

I took a walk sans children, husband or friends.  I set out with a view in mind, that being the picturesque Mill River winding its way gracefully along the shores of red clay in Western Prince Edward Island.  It was for me, more of a pity party at first.  Poor me, why me, why now…yada yada.  Then, I began noticing a few things.  A  fuzzy caterpillar, and then another, crawling along the side of the road.  The elegant lupins, just beginning to emerge in hues of pink, fuschia and indigo.  A broken clothespin.  How did that arrive in my path?  The Queen’s Anne Lace, stooping to touch soft grass growing beneath.

And after a few more moments, I drew my gaze up and far down the path I was travelling, and the view of the water quite took my breath away.

The deep blue of the river, gently lapping the red sandstone. The road leading fishers to a point of entrance.  A boat floating tranquilly in shallow water.  The jagged rock underfoot.  Wooden staircases from cottage lots down to the shore.  A black dog, standing still and free in the river.  The sound of a lawnmower in the distance cutting blades of green summer lawns.  The smell of the water- pungent salt mixed with sweet algae. The beauty of the evening, soon fading to twilight.  This glorious evening of an almost-summer day.

And in the beauty of these moments, these brief interludes of time, in between reality past and reality future, I realized that I could be happy.  Right now.  I did not have to make a promise for fifteen minutes away, nor did I need to make compensations for the misery of hours ago while under the drill of my watchful dentist.  I could just commit to right now.  This was pure, unadulterated happiness.  To be alone in nature in blessed quietness. Does it get any better than this?

When we allow ourselves brief moments in which to feel joy, we find happiness is not so elusive.  And what makes us happy will in turn bring us joy in wave after wave of memory, as we return to that place of pleasure again and again in our minds.  Like those waves on a shore formed of red clay that I experienced tonight.  Our memory, that collective of sounds, sights, triggers and emotions that help to form for us reminiscences of those freeze-frame windows in time that we hope never to forget.  It is a gift.

We touch the face of joy, those of us who can live out our days as small moments rather than large time periods.  I can say I have had a bad day, but really I had a few bad moments.  Those moments will surely lead to more unpleasant moments in the days to come, as I seek to remedy these chipped and broken teeth.  But, there were moments in this day that were pure pleasure.  The moments right before bed when I cuddled with each of my children, one by one.  When I snuggled the youngest, read with the next in line- my middle child, when I kissed the warm forehead of my oldest daughter, and shared a laugh with my very oldest, my son.  Those moments are just as much a part of my day as were those horrific ones at the dentist’s office.  And so, I choose. JOY.

Again, and again and again.  I choose joy.  In the small moments.

Because that is not too much ask.  And I can commit to something small like a moment.


Running the race with joy…

I am cross-country skiing across a field of sparkling white snow.  The sky is a wash of blue watercolour, dotted with clouds and drenched in sunlight.  The evergreen trees provide a canopy overhead as I push along down the trail. It is a glorious day.  I want to soak this all in, this seeming quiet solitude, wherein woman meets nature.

Except for the small fact that I am not woman alone.  Behind me, lying with his back on the ground whilst still attached to skis, is my son.  He is moaning about the fact that we took the long course, and how much further will it be until we are back at the ski shop?  I try to put the contrary sounds I hear coming from his direction right out of my mind, pushing on in spite of his angst.  All the while, I am expounding the benefits of nature and the wonder of the pristine trail before us.  He is not buying it.  About the second hill, neither am I.

I have managed to do the snow-plow stop for each and every slope I encounter, enabling me to also feel a sense of pride.  He assures me that cross-country skiing is much easier than downhill skiing, and that the fact that I have not yet fallen is really no major achievement.  He says this because he has been downhill skiing once and is now an expert.  I have been reduced to a ninny on planks holding onto two telephone poles as ski supports.

Yes, this is the life.

We come upon a straight-away, and my son notices a speed sign.  “We can only go 30 km/h.  That’s okay; we’re only going about five,” he remarks.  I say nothing for a minute, thinking he is joking about the slow rate we had undertaken thus far, due to all the stops and starts.  As well as to his general disinterest in doing what he considers to be the long trail.  I turn around, and look at him.  “That’s the speed for snowmobiles,” I emphasize.  “Oh,” he says, not a trace of sarcasm in his voice.  As if to say that we might very well encounter a particularly peppy skier en route who just might happen to have jet engines hidden inside his ski boots.  I hide a smile.

The Bible talks about our lives being like a race.  I can totally relate to this one, as anyone who knows me can attest.   I am up like a shot in the dark, albeit a canon perhaps rather than a bullet.   I am fired up nonetheless.  It is a race to the shower, then off to the upstairs bathroom and down the hall to grab the article of clothing closest to my reach inside the closet.  The race quickens its pace as I try to pass the baton on to my children encouraging them to join me on the course, they run at a different pace than  do I.  I lengthen my stride as I round the bend in the first lap, and it’s off to make beds and help children decide outfits for the day.  Then, another lap as I leap hurdles to get kids dressed and out the door and off to the various destinations of the day.  Sometimes it’s difficult to experience the wonder of it all, the running of the race, I mean.  One might say you could even lose the joy, that sense of awe in running the race of one’s lifetime.

So, it was a bit of an exhilaration and a literal breath of fresh air today when I was able to take to the great outdoors and grab a bit of a break from the rat race that we sometimes call life.  But isn’t it funny how the race continues even when you think you are on hiatus?

The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favour to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all. (Ecclesiates 9:11, NIV)  I take from this that we cannot run away from the reality of our life or our destiny no matter what we try to use as an escape.  Life has a funny way of catching up to us.

The thing about the race we are called to run, that great race of life, is that we allow our bodies and minds to be present in each moment.  Many times, the race will be brutal and each footfall, hard-earned.  Those times are many and we should not expect that the race be an easy one.  It was never promised to be such.  There are other times, when for us, we will be given a second-wind and the race will seem almost effortless.  We can run without pain and exertion the course set before us.  For other runners, this will be just the time that the race becomes more difficult, and we need to be sensitive to these contenders.  We too have found, at points along the way, the race to be difficult; thus, as our raceway has challenged in times past, so will it challenge us again.  The race is full of surprises, the greatest of which are those that allow us to joyfully celebrate our victories in overcoming our weaknesses.

We stayed the ski course, he and I, stopping several times along the way to boost morale.  It is such an amazing accomplishment to finish the course, when you have questioned whether or not you could even make it around the first bend.  We coasted down the last hill, and glided to a stop in front of the ski shop.  I almost suggested another round.  But as all those who run the race know, a good runner knows when to untie the running shoes and call it a day. Even when those metaphorical  running shoes happen to be a sweaty size 7 1/2 ski boot.