A Riff on Joy

There’s a dirty haze over Seattle tonight. An orange sun glares eerily in the smoky sky. The usually bustling city is subdued.  It’s hot still and uncharacteristically quiet. The feel is almost apocalyptic.

Many people, near and far, are having a hard time right now. I’m good at articulating the problems but not always the solutions. But for tonight, in the here and now, I want to bring something different. I want to make space for a little bit of joy. In these few brief moments that you’re here, reading these words, I want to offer some respite. From one fellow traveler to another, I want to lift you up, even if only briefly. Together, I want us to evoke all the wonders that delight and inspire. I want us to recreate whimsy and lose ourselves in unfettered abandon. We’re here together for such a short time really. I want us to be happy. I’m just riffing. But I hope you’ll indulge me.

Go back to a time when you had enough, when you were enough. What did that feel like? Where were you? What were you doing? Was there a particular visual at the time, or a scent? A sound? How did this feeling make itself known in your body?

Visualize a puppy, a plump one. Maybe she is a bulldog or a pug. She is coming to you with her tiny puppy teeth and her sweet puppy breath. She’s beside herself, wiggling all around you, licking your hands and your face. She rolls over on her back, offering you the softest of bellies to pat and enjoy. The two of you are the silliest, having your own little lovefest, oblivious and blissful.

What is the best garden that you ever experienced? What was growing there? Did it bring you nourishment? Loveliness? Refuge?  I can see and smell stargazer lilies. Sunflowers tower all around me. And all those crazy dahlias…so bright and enthusiastic. The dirt is rich and damp. The sky above, eternal blue.

Picture an ice cream sundae. Maybe you’re sharing it with a friend. Or perhaps you’re stealing a delicious moment to yourself. It’s a bowl of the best kind of vanilla, smothered in a warm, oozing fudge sauce with a jolly dollop of whipped cream and the requisite maraschino cherry on top. You push your spoon in, excavating for that first heavenly bite. You swirl it around your mouth, your taste buds drenched in sweetness. A wave of warmth rolls over you and permeates your body. This gastric orgasm is rocking your world. And you surrender completely.

Close your eyes and picture the face of the kindest person you know. What are they saying to you?

My favorite novel is You Shall Know Our Velocity by Dave Eggers. From page 257: “I have an irregular and bursting heart and that’s why I’m here.”

What was your most memorable experience in nature? Was it a blazing sunset, with a splash of pink and orange across a vast canyon? Was it a low-hanging moon over a silent summer lake? Were there crashing waves? An eruption of stars? Did you give yourself over to rapture?

You’re smoking weed with your best friend, the one who has known and loved you for eons. You’re floating ridiculously and everything is hysterical. You’re too high to drive but don’t care. You pull into Sonic Drive-In and order fried pickles-o’s and large Dr. Peppers. Your chortles and stories are interrupted by the curb hop, who has arrived from an entirely different planet and interjected an alternative reality you’re in no way ready for. You tell him to keep the change because you just can’t deal. If you laugh any harder, you’ll pee yourself.

I’m thinking about spaciousness and the infinite expanse beyond consciousness and time. I’m remembering that cold February morning when grief took me there. I went in desperate search of love. And I discovered that I am love.  We are love. There is no separation. For my anguish, I was allowed that lifesaving glimpse. The perfect alignment of pain and beauty is so perplexing, yet so undeniably true.

This is what my brain gave me tonight. And this what I have to give to you. The smoke will blow away, come back and blow away again. Cycles of uncertainty will spin in perpetuation. But we created and held this space and this moment together. And I hope you found at least a little piece of joy.