Thinking about joy and the question of just when and where I have found it in my own life, I look back on my memories as a very young child and realize that the roots of joy run deep.
One of my happiest memories–one that can still start my day off right–is that of listening to the gutteral call of a gull circling the summer morning sky above our rented Victorian beach cottage, and knowing that a day of summer sun and climbing the New England shore rocks with my sister and cousins lay ahead.
At the moment, the sky is gloomy and gray, drab and chilled, yet still I find peace and comfort in watching the shorebirds as they rest their wings on currents of winter air and glide. Although I tend to characterize my early years as being a time of happiness, I know that, in reality, childhood was not all carefree pleasure and fun. For me, it was a time of everyday, middle class, American family pressures, compounded by the sudden passing of my mother when I was three.
Yet, still I tend to equate joy with my childhood. Thinking back on some of the early pleasures that anchored me, that gave me pause, I see that it is those same simple gifts of the earth, the sea, and the sky that continue to bring me peace and contentment.
Mary Oliver, a favorite poet of mine and of the world, captured so many of those thoughts in a favorite book, Why I Wake Early. Gifts of the earth, the sea and the sky are, indeed, universal anchors of joy.
Photo: View of CT shoreline from Harkness Memorial State Park, (c) Mary O’Connor, 2013