Let a joy keep you. Reach out your hands and take it when it runs by. ~Carl Sandburg
Where did your joy go?
I asked this of my reflection in the foggy bathroom mirror last year. I remember studying the crinkle in my brow and specifically not answering myself. Where was the light heart I used to keep? The ready giggle pawing at the back of my throat like an impatient racehorse? Did my silly pants slide off the back of the dryer where the socks must go to collect lint and die?
‘The sky is falling!’ the Body yelled.
It hit us in the head, it must be so.
The world is on fire and all the things gone viral were making me sick but I really couldn’t think of one good reason for the fever in my soul. I knew whatever I had seemed to be catching:
Where did your joy go? I imagine the watching world said to the people among whom God placed His own heart.
Where-ever-in-the-world my joy was hiding, I set out to find it.
Why don’t you slow down and chew your food so you can taste it?
My mother said this so often to any one of her six children at our childhood dinner table her words never left me. Sometimes a net of advice casts wide out to other matters and I took this to mean savoring books made of too-rich words with bites that must be small to be enjoyed fully.
Poolside of a summer afternoon, I began accidentally lapsing into a clockish sort of rhythm with a particularly tasty book: read a few pages, count my kids’ laughing heads one, two, three, and then take a moment to witness signs of life all around me. Giggling at the drama of a toddler tantrum I didn’t have to deal with or observing the way lifeguards flirt in their natural habitat gave the words I was reading enough time to work all the way down.
After several rounds of reading, counting, witnessing, I found myself watching a set of tired parents beginning the chaotic herding of their wild young chickens out of the pool.
I feel you, girl.
As I sent my silent sympathy up between us, my eyes landed on a beautiful swallowtail butterfly floating through the air like blue and black confetti from a long way up. I tracked its progress: licking at water stains on the concrete here, landing on a sticky popsicle wrapper there. I looked around for anyone else bearing witness and caught a boy of about three chewing his Goldfish and staring a hole right into me. I quick-checked my suit was still pulled up and then pointed out the butterfly resting very near his big toe.
I watched the boy see it.
He smiled, followed the butterfly with his dimpled hands open, like an invitation to land. She led him on a chase, dipping and diving, and once buzzing by his cheek for a kiss. At this, he laughed wildly and looked back at anyone who might share in this moment. The boy’s hands never stopped stretching before him, even as the butterfly rode a breeze high over the fence and disappeared into the green on the other side. He watched the air after her for several heartbeats and then skipped back to his chair, swinging his arms. As he picked up his bag of crackers, he looked once more at me and we shared a wink in the pleasure of a simple joy.
In the middle of all the people and the noise…a gift for us. We only had to reach out our hands, catch it, and bear witness.
It made me smile to know we hadn’t missed it.
Joy is the serious business of heaven. ~C.S. Lewis