pull up a chair

where wisdom gathers, poetry unfolds and divine light is sparked…

Tag: joy

pointillist of joy

poin’til-lism (pwan’), n. [Fr. pointillisme, from pointiller, to mark with dots.] the method of painting of certain French impressionists, in which a white ground is systematically covered with tiny points of pure color that blend together when seen from a distance, producing a luminous effect.

***
and so, i realized, this season, for me, is a pointillist of joy.

i no longer search for the cymbal crash, the percussive cacophony of big bangs. i have an ear out for the tinkling of glass chimes, blowing in the winter breeze. i listen for the bells, far off, gently. i sigh at the sound of simmering on the stove.

i find the beauty, the luminous beauty, in the accumulation of teeny-tiny sparks of joy. and so, the painter of my own tableau, i have my brush always at the ready, tucked within my pocket. i am searching, dabbing, dropping pure color onto the canvas of my life.

i find pure contentment, bliss, in tiny packages, the moments of my life, wrapped up as with a floppy scarlet satin bow.

i find it all around.

and that, for me, is the abundant gift of this season. if you don’t come rushing at it, if you allow it to open itself up, to reveal the deep stirrings, to pierce the dark with incandescent light.

i find it on the kitchen table, crowded now with candles. the menorah, each night adds another glow. the advent wreath, now fully lit. the everyday tapers, standing sentry, now burn too. one dinner might be powered by the light of 10 candles, and we are barely half way into hanukkah. by the end we’ll be holy ablaze (and have the extinguisher at the ready).

i find my points of joy in the sweet perfume of bay leaf and clove that rose, in impermeable clouds, i tell you, from the oven all last eve, as the six pounds of brisket cooked down into the hanukkah elixir.

i find joy in waking early, in plugging in the christmas lights. in the silence of the early morn, when i’m alone. when carols hum from the radio, a seasonal shift from the abysmal morning’s news.

i find joy in toting my coffee can of seed out to the feeders, where cardinals flit, ignite the morning landscape. just this morning i discovered what looked like a white-headed cardinal. there’s no such thing, i know. i won’t find it in any field guide, so do i have some aberration or did someone’s pet parakeet (an odd breed of one at that) fly the coop, and move into my backyard? it is a joy that will delight me all day long, as i try to unravel the mystery of the albino-headed bird.

i find joy this joyful season in wrapping up berry-studded loaves of holiday bread in white baker’s paper, in hearing the rustle of the sturdy wrap as i bend it round the loaf, as i tie it up in string, red string, as i tiptoe in the dark to all my neighbors’ doors, ring the bell and wish a merry christmas.

i find joy in stashing my bedroom closet with odd-shaped boxes and a few bags, santa’s wardrobe, indeed. as my little one will not let on that he knows who santa is, and so i hide the few fine things that santa’s checked off the list, procured for my sweet believer.

i find joy in red berries tucked around the house. a big fat splurge, at 15 bucks for one fistful of christmas berries. but as someone at the market said, “if you can’t splurge at christmas, then when ever would you splurge?”
splurge on, oh joyful wonders.

i find joy by the sleighful in my still-limping cat, my cat who laps up cream as we tend to him, pamper him, await the full return of his vim and vigor.

i find joy in that little boy of ours, the one not too big to snuggle in our beds, the one who whispered a prayer the other night that his big brother would get home safe, “in two pieces,” he requested. two pieces? i shot back, disturbed by the mental picture of his brother snapped in halves. “yeah,” said the little one, “one piece for him, one piece for his luggage.”

indeed, two pieces.

i found everlasting joy this very morning when at last the phone rang. and it was that very brother, a croaky-voiced version all the same. for the better part of half an hour, which felt like all day, no one could find him. the van that had pulled up to the dorm to take him to the airport, they reported that they “couldn’t find him.” the phone rang and rang and no one answered. you needn’t know me long to know what i can imagine in the flash of an instant, and i imagined all right. was without breath or color in my face for the better part of that half hour. till the campus police knocked on his dorm-room door, and found him, sound asleep with runny nose and barely any sound coming from his swollen, croaky throat.

so when the phone rang, when he was alive and not slumped under some tree (or worse), my heart rang out in everlasting joy. joy that will carry me through christmas, indeed.

yes, oh yes, i’ve realized over recent years, and emphatically in recent weeks and days, that i’ve become a gatherer of tiny points of joy.

i embroider my life with sweet somethings, little somethings. the pure satisfaction of a single moment in time when i am immersed, awash, in somethings beautiful.

when i feel the flutter of a wing, not far above my head in the serviceberry branches.

when i inhale the spicy notes of pine or clove or cinnamon and orange peel.

when i wrap my fingers in the chubby little ones of my sweet little boy, as he lays beside me in his flannel pj’s, as he warms the sheets, as he whispers words of love-drenched hope and prayer.

the equation of my life, of my joy, i’ve come to know is a long string of one plus one plus one.

and it all adds up, quite exuberantly, quite deliciously, and intoxicatingly so, to a canvas that takes my breath away.

so luminescent is the depth of holy sacred joy.

merry everything as we tiptoe into the christmas weekend, as we march along through the eight days of hanukkah, as we await the travelers in our lives. as we gather round the hearts and souls we love, and the ones we miss but feel anyway in that mystical way in which our dearest deepest loves never really leave us, can be felt full force through the powers of the heart.
come back for christmas, if you find the time, for i’ve an essay that i’ll post here, once the tribune posts it first.
sending love. and joy.

catch joy…

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….