Monday, September 14, 2020

A Day's Gift

I woke up this morning after an incredible night’s sleep. It was 10 a.m., so I’d just missed a gathering of friends, but instead of feeling disappointment, I only felt amazement: I had SLEPT! Sleep has always been elusive for me, but with Covid, I tend to sleep only every other night for a few hours.

I woke up to glorious, glorious sun in Anchorage. Sparkling cloudless skies. And I had an adventure planned: Tim and I were going to get an ice cream pop.

The adult daughter had visited us for the whole month of August – a whole month to outlast quarantine! – and we’d covered almost all the wished-for-and-missed food. With Forest Fair and State Fair cancellations, it seemed we’d never be able to have those chocolate-dipped Original Gourmet Ice Cream Bars again. So I searched and searched … and discovered they’d be at the “Friday Fling” in Palmer, 45 miles away.
I cannot tell you how delicious that ice cream bar was. Vanilla ice cream with delicious chocolate, all covered with Oreo cookie crumbs. I think it was the best one they’d ever made. We sat in the sun far away from anyone else, unmasked and in ice cream delirium.

As soon as we arrived home, the phone rang. Sophie just had to tell us that she’d had a great victory at work, wonderful choices presented themselves, and she was happy (but jealous about our ice cream). My mother used to say she could hear a “ring” in my voice on the telephone when I was happy; Mom, I now know what you meant.

Afterwards, I had to get to the library to pick up three books on hold before they were closed for the weekend. (Desperation lurks if I perceive I may run out of books.) So off I biked. When I turned in my library card to the always-helpful Sophie (a different one), she returned with five books! Two more had come in off long-time holds. A bonanza of library books!

As I biked home in the sunshine, it hit like a ton of bricks: a feeling of unadulterated joy. I can’t even describe it: it’s like sunshine lit up my soul with energy and happiness. It was a miracle. I was like the bike scene in E.T.
A miracle because it had been such a very long time. So long that I’d decided joy was no longer happening, that I wasn’t even marking its absence because it was just a non-event. Not sadness, not depression, just not-joy.

So what was it? Sleep? Sunshine? An ice cream bar? A bike basket full of books? A happy daughter? Living in a place where the air is clear and I can simply hop on a bike to ride to the library? A husband who may not think a 45-mile drive to get an ice cream is an “adventure,” but who happily does it with me nevertheless? (and who laughed as he pointed out that he only shows up as #6 or #7)

I am living a very fortunate life, free of violence, fire, smoke, financial collapse, hunger. I know that. All I “suffered” today were irritations:

  • the unmasked lady on the ice cream line who kept coming closer and closer to us

  • the next-door neighbors who added a sixth parked vehicle to the junkyard they call a backyard

  • the creeping crud that invaded my house plants

I could go on, fully aware that those are just irritationsnot hardships or catastrophes – but most times, I guess, even irritations get in the way of joy. Something gets in the way.

But somehow, SOMEHOW, joy crept in. I don’t know why. I wish I did so I could know how to hold onto it, how to usher it in when it’s absent.

But joy is not a function of reason. There is no formula that dictates sunshine + ice cream + library books = Joy. There is no chemical equation – no necessary and sufficient causes – that make joy the inevitable result of anything.


This joy was just a gift. Maybe it will be gone when I have a sleepless night tonight or if it rains. It will certainly fade when I read the news and hear about another political crime, racist murder, and/or environmental disaster.

But I’ve written it down; I’ve now documented it: Today, I felt Joy.

Joy exists.

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