“For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh
As I sit at my kitchen table, the rain blows against the windows. The wind catches the porch furniture as the metal chairs clatter on the wood. Thunderstorms on a Monday morning can be despairingly gloomy, yet I glimpse spring scratching to appear. The end of February and the beginning of March in the Midwest are fickle times. Snowflakes juxtaposition themselves against 70 degree days. One doesn’t know whether to grab gloves or sunscreen when heading out the door. These days, though, teach me patience, because I know warm days are coming. Nothing will block the bursting of pastel flowering trees that scatter the roads and sidewalks. Spring is a force that will not be stopped. It comes, despite an errant blizzard or a late March ice storm. It will come.
Nature gives us life lessons. It is easy to complain about cold, wet days. We grumble. We growl. But joy perches gracefully within reach. As Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “It’s not what you look at that matters; it’s what you see.” If we choose to see misery, that is what will be dumped in our laps. Even in the deepest of pain, we can choose to see sparks of joy. It may be the cat warming himself on the sunlit floor or a favorite song popping up on the radio or knowing spring will be here soon.
Sparks of joy are everywhere. A pile of to-be-read books on the kitchen table. The scraping sound of the wreath against the front door. A pot of yellow daises. A morning text from my husband. The cooing of doves nesting in our eves. These are what I choose to see this morning.
I acknowledge the world is a dark and dangerous place. Slain children fill my nightmares. Flags at half mast prick my tender heart. A confused and insecure man tweets vile messages as Rome burns. We are precariously teetering on those cliffs of despair. But…but I also hear fierce and articulate teenagers fight the norms. I feel mothers and fathers mobilizing to protect their children. I see hope. I spy joy, even as the mourning continues.
Because joy is not an empty promise made by slick sideshow preachers or slimy politicians. It is here, for deep within our anger and grief lies joy and love.
“Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.” – Joseph Campbell