Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Think Back Tuesday -- Can I Find Joy?

Outside the window where I sit each morning to write, there is a dogwood tree that came up, uninvited, in the flower bed near the house. It's taller than I am now, although I can remember when it appeared and I debated pulling it from its volunteer location. Throughout this winter, it's been a companion of sorts when I've struggled for words and looked for inspiration.

For most of that time it's been a seemingly lifeless and silent observer of my efforts. Occasionally there has been a cardinal waiting his turn at the bird feeder. One morning the house wren that nests on my porch each summer serenaded me from a branch.

This morning it is almost covered in small green leaves, a rising tide of life coming up from the roots. The lower branches are greenest while those at the top are still small buds.

I'm looking at it this morning because the past week leading up to what should have been Ethan's 24th birthday has been a hard one. It has been much like the period leading up to his actual birth, one filled with anxious waiting, uncertainty and dread -- although 24 years ago I was dreading delivery and anticipating a happy outcome, while this year it was just a day to mark without the person I should have been marking it with.

So I sat down this morning to try to recall things that brought me joy this past week, and it was like looking out over a foggy landscape and being unable to make out the things I knew were there.

Then I saw the little dogwood and beyond it the hot pink blooms of what I have to call my "slutty" weeping peach, because everything else in the early spring has a more delicate color, and just over the kennel building, one of the larger redbuds is in full bloom with a delicate lavender color, and I know the joy is there and has been, and that yesterday was actually just another day that will always have meaning but should not be given any special power to wreck my life.

So the trees, the season itself, continues to bring me joy, even though I'm fighting allergies and the fig tree I planted shortly after Ethan's funeral still has not sent forth any leaves.

Where else did I find joy this week? It's time to think back.

1. Eating Krispy Kreme chocolate-iced, cream-filled doughnuts with my mom yesterday in memory of Ethan. Just like me, those were his ultimate doughnuts. We bought a dozen or two each month when I took him to his appointments in Winston-Salem, and now E1 demands one on her weekly trip as well. We ate them with smiles, remembering how much he liked them and how quickly he could devour them. I remembered sitting at the tables outside the Krispy Kreme in the sun, eating and talking with him with the sun on our faces. My son had a limited palate, but what he liked he liked in large amounts -- macaroni and cheese, bean burritos, pepperoni pizza, apples, doughnuts. Good memories creeping in.

2. E3 on her first egg hunt at church last week. Last year she was a babe in arms, and she only turned 1 a couple of months ago, but she quickly grasped the idea of grabbing up the eggs. When E2 bent over and accidentally tipped a few of hers in the floor afterwards, E3 was on them like a chicken on corn.

3. Taking E1 to school Monday. That's one of the occasional "joys" of the schedule shift. She was excited to show me things at her school and it was fun to see her shifting into gear for a different environment.

4. Discovering that the sippy cup I found under the car safety seats wasn't full of milk. I have no idea how long Baby's Hello Kitty cup had been under the seats and when I took two out as part of the early week shuffle to adjust to the schedule change, I was shocked to see it. I imagined a lump of soured milk, baked by the warm temperatures and well aged to the point that the cup was probably bound for the outside trash can. I opened it hesitantly and found -- water!

5. Mowing the yard for the first time this season. Yes, by fall that may be an exercise I'm so over, but I enjoyed it Saturday. Last year I didn't get to mow a lot because of the babies and the kennel, but schedule changes may shift it back to my category of responsibility. And we've set posts to give the chickens the area of the yard we don't walk in except when we're mowing, so it was a quicker job as well, even though we haven't put up fencing yet.

6. The first seeds coming up in my garden. Yes, it's supposed to be below freezing tonight and tomorrow (bleah) but they're the early, hardy crops and I'm not worried about them, although I will have to tote a couple of delicate potted plants in today. I can't wait for fresh produce and love that my daughter is trying her hand at gardening for the first time this year.

7. An afternoon outing with my soul sister. My kennel has been a blessing I would never have imagined in ways that reach far beyond any fiscal returns. I've adopted an extended family, connected through four-legged fur-kids that are beloved not just at their homes, but at mine as well. No, not every dog and family that I provide care for reaches that category, but so many have. One is Sis, who like a child comes for daycare because of her family's long workday. We've clicked at other levels and after church Sunday, her "mom" and I had a girl's outing that provided conversation, a break, and an Easter dress.

8. The first song of a spring peeper last week. I love that sound of spring and have frequently wasted my time trying to see the tiny frogs that I've only actually managed to glimpse once in my life.

There's more as once again I find myself on a roll after I begin, the flight of a pair of hawks, the flex of my muscles pushing two girls in a stroller up a long hill, climbing out of bed without being sore after a hard day's work, etc. I just have to flex my memory and I surprise myself that there was actually more brightness than I thought in the week. Maybe the blues that I thought had consumed me were just passing clouds after all.

Exercise your memory, look for joy. Have a better week ahead.

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