Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Passion for Joy

My friend Jeanie has a gift for really savoring life. She loves books, movies, music, public radio, crafting, creating, family... so many things. In fact, she has so many passions, one blog just won't contain them. When you find that today's introduction just wasn't enough, you'll want to visit her at The Marmalade Gypsy and Chopsticks and String.

When Relyn asked me to contribute to her month of passions, I was tremendously honored and excited. My head was filled with ideas. I'm wildly passionate about my photography... and art... and reading... and travel... and family... and the cat... all things French and British... You get the idea.

So I did what I often do when I'm trying to clear my head -- take a walk to someplace beautiful. I chose to go to what we call "The Ditch."

The Ditch is a not-quite-natural area at the far end of my neighborhood, about an eight-block walk away. It was built as a result of a sewer separation project, and no -- it's not filled with sewer water, but I'm not sure I'd jump in the several ponds. But it does allow for a variety of birds, ducks, water creatures and, I'm told, deer.

My favorite is Harry the Heron. I've been waiting for his return during the long, seemingly endless winter. While the skies are still gloomy and April's showers about, I know spring must be here, not only because the calendar tells me so, but Harry has returned.

The Ditch is not everyone's favorite spot, although on any given day or evening, you'll find families, walkers, dogs of every size, shape and color walking or jogging around what is about a half-mile paved circle that goes by the water and through woods. But it came at a great cost to some of the taxpayers in the region, while others, like me, were either assessed before I bought my house or not assessed at all. Some will seldom go to the Ditch -- it reminds them of this fact and it's not pleasant. They miss so much.

I spent a good deal of time watching Harry preen himself, poking into his feathers with his sharp beak and then looking up quickly, as though he heard something of great importance. He would pause now and then and survey the pond, seemingly oblivious of the duckrobatics going on not far from him, or the muskrat (or maybe it was a beaver) moving sticks across the water.

During the course of my walk and Harry-viewing, it became clear to me that perhaps I am most passionate is optimism, hope and joy. I'm a very "cup half-full" sort of person, and even when trying things happen, I do my best to find something out of the problem that can be somewhat positive.

Whenever I am doing art and I make a mistake -- spill something or glue something upside down, for example -- I have a choice. I can get angry for the time and supplies wasted and throw it away. Or, I can do my best to turn the mistake into an opportunity to something better, something more creative.

When the timetable gets off kilter something happens quite outside of my control, I can get frustrated or I can do my best to find something about it that isn't so bad. I can't control the outcome, but I can control how I react to it -- not always easily, I might add!

I try to do that with people, too. Heaven knows we don't always work with a batch of people we want to embrace into our daily lives -- and yet, there they are and there is little we can do about it. But stop and think. What is there world like away from the office? Are they happy? Are they well? Are they challenged by family issues of which I know nothing? I can manage my work life around those folks far better if I try to give them a break -- a break they never asked for, perhaps don't even deserve or know they're getting. And it doesn't matter, because it makes me feel better.

To me, joy and optimism are intricately associated with gratitude. When push comes to shove, I can have the worst day in the world, but I know that I have a job I love, my needs are met, my family is dear to my heart and my sweet Gypsy-cat will snug in and purr and let me know I am needed. Believe me, I am not a saint! Don't think I never get mad, or grumpy. We all do, and we deserve that choice. But more often than not, it is a choice.

I have to say this half-full thing really can tick people off! In my personal and professional life we all associate with people who get agitated -- often with good reason. But like an angry terrier that has caught its prey, they don't let go -- they shake it furiously and long after the event has passed, they still hold on in their heads and hearts.

I have to respect that. Some people don't want to be joyful or don't know how. They are righteous in their anger or frustration. They would deny that they lack joy. But I think it's true -- because it is quite easy to build joy into one's life. It takes letting go of what is not joyful and being grateful for what wonderful things surround you. (Sometimes you have to look under a leaf, but it's there.)

About fifteen years ago I was in a car accident. It was my fault, and my car was totaled. But the other vehicle was barely nicked.

That guy was furious. And I just looked at him and said, "Look, are you or anyone in your car hurt?" "No." "No one's hurt. And it's a gorgeous day -- yesterday it was pouring, but today it's sunny, warm. You can still drive your car (which I couldn't). My insurance will cover that little nick. So tonight you go home, you have dinner, you have a story to tell and life goes on."

I thought he was going to hit me, so I told him I was just going to wait in my car and read my book till the police got there, and I hoped he the rest of the day was better for him.

(And you know what? By totaling out my car, I got the money to pay for repairs on the house I just bought. And with a few repairs -- a battery and a tune up -- my dad's car, which had been sitting for two years after his death, and I drove that for years. But that was just serendipity.)

I'm definitely not Pollyanna. I can't play the "glad game" when there is a natural disaster. Or when someone is seriously ill, loses their job or loses on their home. But I can say that those I know who have lost their job often say it was the best thing that happened to them because it allowed them to find their proper path. It's making the choice to move forward rather than staying stuck in anger or sorrow. Doesn't happen overnight; it can take time (maybe years). Some wounds will never heal. But they can heal enough.

Seeing joy and optimism doesn't happen overnight. Sometimes there are long stretches in-between, where things seem dark and impossible. It's like a long, white winter when you believe you'll never see the spring.

But it does come. Flowers begin to pop up in gardens, songbirds sport their brilliant yellow and red feathers.

And Harry the Heron comes home.

And I smile.


Amy said...

Oh, I love it ... such a precious reminder! {and Harry the Heron is such a handsome fellow!}

Tracy said... Jeanie's photos... and not least her story. :o) ((HUGS))

Jeanie said...

Relyn, thank you so much for choosing me to share one of my passions. It's always a joy to read your blog -- all the more so to be a part of it!

Sandy K. said...

What a lovely journal and photos - I am more equipped to run headlong into my day instead of go back to bed and pull the covers over my head (to stay warm). It's wonderful to have a spot to walk to which helps clear your head. I shall walk to mine.

Thank you!

Linda said...

Beautiful post by Jeanie!!! Loved each word. All things CAN work to the good for those of us called to it. I do love Harry!

Jennifer Richardson said...

Thanks for this, Relyn!
SO many wonderful spirits you've brought around this's an
embarassment of riches:):):)
Love it.

Jeane, you're a woman after
my own heart:)
Can so SO relate to what you so
beautifully shared
and love the way all of your lens
see the magic around you.

Anonymous said...

love those pictures

Barb said...

A positive post to go with your wonderful photos, Jeanie. I like the optimism you pass along to your readers.

gkgirl said...

Love this....fantastic photos and inspiring words!

Privet and Holly said...

Love J's words and the
pics she chose to go with
them, since birds can teach
us so much about life: when
to soar, when to hunker down
and of course, when to sing!
xx Suzanne

tracy said...

One man's ditch is another man's creek is another man's stream is another man's river is another man's....get the picture(s)? and they are fabulous.

I grew up next to a "ditch" and it held all the wonders of the world in it.

Jaime said...

Oh, did I ever read this at the right time? Something came up today that may cause some big upsetting changes...this has stressed me out today. But reading this post, and feeling the peace and acceptance in it has filled me with calm.
Not to mention Harry....watching herons is a true lesson in patience.

Thank you for this beauty. xo

Jeanne said...

Gorgeous indeed♥

ELK said...

there is so much to see here in these photos the colors .. and the heron!!

Ragamuffin Gal said...

What beautiful photos and great story!

shoreacres said...

What a beautiful post. We have the herons all year long, so we watch for the return of others, but the dynamics are the same: the cycle of life, the security of nature, the joy of being able to choose joy rather than anger.

Now that I've said "the security of nature" it seems rather strange, but I think this is what I mean: we live in a world larger than ourselves, and no matter what happens in our little bit of world, the larger world keeps on spinning. Our ditches are an invitation to stop, and look.

Elyse said...

I absolutely loved your car accident story. Which sounds odd, but I think that that simple illustration sums up joy. Thanks for making my day with your beautiful pictures and inspirational words.

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