Saturday, April 25, 2015

Learning Joy

“In my own worst seasons I've come back from the colorless world of despair by forcing myself to look hard, for a long time, at a single glorious thing: a flame of red geranium outside my bedroom window. And then another: my daughter in a yellow dress. And another: the perfect outline of a full, dark sphere behind the crescent moon. Until I learned to be in love with my life again. Like a stroke victim retraining new parts of the brain to grasp lost skills, I have taught myself joy, over and over again(15).” 
― Barbara KingsolverHigh Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now or Never

I am; have been for many years, a fan of Barbara Kingsolver.  I love her novels, but I keep close to hand her book of essays:  High Tide in Tucson.

Now, many years after it was first published, there are many places where it feels, on the face of it, like the writing is hopelessly dated.  But there, underneath the obvious, are these amazing gems of wisdom and truth and simple humanity.  I am called back, each time I pick it up, to my deepest and best self.

That is surely true of the quote that appears at the top of this entry.  I have been through one of those worst seasons.  We all have them, if we manage to live long enough...  Dry, dusty times when the water of life refuses to flow for us; times when the icy winds blast our bones; when it is too hard to stand, or move, or even breathe.  Times when we believe, in our small, frightened hearts, that we must surely die; that it is simply not possible to survive THIS.

However often I find myself in that darkness, I never seem to actually die. I survive.  I keep on living.  I find the places where I can focus on the beautiful and glorious and graceful...  and pull myself out of the dark.  For, there is life and beauty and joy in the miracle of being, and that is the core truth that remains; whatever storms may come our way:

Sunlight glinting off of fresh snow.
The slow, soft greening of the coming of spring.
The glimmer in the eyes of a young person when profound understanding comes in a flash.
The warmth of a hand slipping into my own.
The quiet of the night when sleep steals in softly with the ticking of the clock.
The unmistakable morning scent of bacon frying.
The watercolor abandon of a summer sunset.
The soft purring motor of a happy cat.
The satisfaction of a clean house.
Bird songs at dawn.
The "I love you,Grandma" that echoes in my heart long after I hang up the phone.

And much, much more.  Enough beauty and joy to keep me living and believing.  For the ladder that I can climb up out of the darkness, I am grateful.