catch joy…

by bam

it is the antidote to madness. it is portable. and i do believe it shall become a lifelong practice.

i started this week. gave it a name. exercised it as often as i could.

i call it catching joy. it is living on two planes at once. making sure one side of your brain stays on patrol, and at watch, while the other side goes about its nutty, hair-frazzling business.

it is more conscious than the otherwise ho-hum knack for catching yourself sighing, saying, “oh my, this is a wonderful moment.”

catching joy practically involves a butterfly net.

it is an active pursuit of paying attention. of cloaking yourself in joy when you stumble upon it. of taking that scant slice of soulful delight, piercing it with a fork and sucking the juice right out of it. or, perhaps, slathering it on, whatever the joy is, like a sour-cream-thick slather of makes-me-feel-velvet-all-over.

it is setting the little alarm in your head to clang when all of a sudden you realize, “oh my, this is good. very good. this smells/sounds/looks/feels magnificent. just shy of heavenly.”

heck, there are days, i am certain, when the bar needn’t be set quite so high. when, “gosh, this is purdy fine here,” is more than good enough.

the point, though, is that even amid the mad-dashing, huffing and puffing, there come–unannounced, but regally draped–moments that will, if we let them, feed the pits of our souls, restore the marrow before it runs out.

and what we must do, if we intend to understand their essentialness, their necessity, as if pure oxygen inhaled through a tube, is we must not let the lovelinesses waft by without duly noting every last ounce of it.

if we can pause, hit the soak-it-in button, well, then i’m certain we can double the bang for our buck.

say, for instance, we are dashing across a grocery store parking lot. and there, fluttering by, flutters a butterfly. the first of the season. if we pause mid-lope, if we allow the watchguard side of our brain to shout out in glee, “oh, golly, there’s something wonderful. there’s something to notice,” we might find a new spring in our step, a true gratitude that we happened to be in that place [cracked-asphalt, traffic-jammed grocery store parking lot] at that time [just before anyone at home noticed we were flat out of milk and bananas].

here’s how it went for me this week, once i started to play my new game, the one we’ll call joy catching, or catch joy for short.

(i know how it went, by the way, because i added paper and pencil to the version i played along at home. soon as i caught any version of joy, i scribbled it down, finding, as i have over the years, that no. 2 lead pencils, and/or blue ink delivered by ball point, help me commit things to memory.)

my catch-joy list for the week:

i found myself stopped at a stop light with two lanes of traffic steering south. suddenly, from behind, i heard a siren shrieking my way. instinctively, as i’ve done since i was a wee little girl, as my boys have seen me and mimicked a million times over the years, i made the sign of the cross, whispering prayers that whoever was hurt would be delivered to safety and wholeness.

at the exact same time, in the exact same tempo, a woman at the wheel of the car next to mine, made the same sign of the cross. ditto. in duplicate. it made me smile through two more stop lights that there would be two of us, side by side, both playing out the catholic school girl’s act of veneration and hope, instilled and still knee-jerk after all of these decades.

that same day, i do believe, one when my morning demanded i drive like a race car driver, and ferry my firstborn from orchestra hall to a river 10 miles away, i found my car taking a right, when it was supposed to be taking a left (after said child was safely delivered, of course).

why, that ol’ station wagon steered itself straight to the seasonal garden store, the one with the cyclone fence and all the red radio flyer wagons. refusing to brake, that ol’ car pulled right into a parking space and suddenly the driver-side door flung wide open.

i made that out to mean that i was supposed to get out of the car, walk through the row upon row of pansies, and gosh, bring home some babies for planting. (i did as instructed.)

the joys that i caught in that particular outing were the two pots of forget-me-nots, each a cloud of droplets of blue, blue the color of sky on a june afternoon. forget-me-nots, with their delicate emphatic charm, have always been near the top of my spring favorites list, right up there with nodding lily-of-the-valley, and getting-ready-to-burst viburnum, the intoxicant of april and may that soon will explode right outside my kitchen window.

there was more joy caught in my net as i knelt in my garden, my knees sinking into the lush, sun-warmed loam, and my fingers brushing back a clump of old leaves to discover the earliest green nubs of the jack frost brunnera i dug up and carried here when we up and moved from my much-loved first garden.

again i caught joy when i traipsed into a quirky-but-charming downtown flower shop that’s packed to the rafters with blooms, and walked out with a clutch of hyacinths, muscari and apricot-throated narcissus, now perched in a cobalt blue vase and broadcasting its vernal perfume all through my kitchen.

you get the exercise.

and let me emphasize the power behind it. we have a choice, it seems. we can barrel through our days as if an obstacle course that threatens to swallow us whole, should we make a mis-step. we can be left at the end of the day splayed and gasping for air, numb at the thought of another tomorrow.

or, we can punctuate the hours. inject serendipitous whimsy. gather up joy the color of sunshine. we can collect pearls of delight, as if the beads on a rosary. we can hold onto these marvels, turn them over and over–in our hearts and our minds. we can lift each one to the light, and commit their truth to our souls: even on the darkest of days, a scant ray of light escapes from the sun.

if we’re blessed, if we’re wise, we understand and we do as inspired: we catch joy, we store it in jars, lined up on the windowsill.

all we need do is glance at the sill, to see just how blessed any old day might become.

if we commit to the practice, the sacred art of searching and seizing random shards of joy, wherever they come.

if we make it the sport of our life. and have oodles of joy jars to show for it.

what joys did you catch this week?

and before i go, a most blessed birthday to my dear vpk, mother of the one i married, but more than that a bright light and beacon to me and my boys.
and to my ella bella cupcake who turned 2 yesterday, you my sweet, are joy caught and held close to my heart, forever and ever.
p.s. the beauties up above are from the flower wonderland i wandered into for work this week. oh, what a job. what a joy. caught just for you….