An invitation to slow down and connect
Yesterday I took Garrison Keillor’s anthology Good Poems to the cafe across the street for a couple hours of word-savouring in the late afternoon golden light. I have only waded through the first five sections so far, but there are so many gems in this collection–some of which I have loved for many years and many I had never come across before. In Anne Sexton’s Welcome Morning, there is a line that struck a chord:
“The joy that isn’t shared, I’ve heard,
I’ve been thinking about this idea a lot lately. Like many others, far more of my joyful moments this year have been experienced alone. The necessary period of isolation and social distancing that Covid has brought with it has changed the landscape of human relationships in profound ways. Don’t get me wrong–there is definitely enjoyment to be had and wisdom to be gleaned from solitary moments of joy. I even seek these out when I need time for personal reflection and renewal. But the abundance of time in my own company that 2020 has given me has helped me to better appreciate how much companionship amplifies joy.
This past weekend I went blackberry picking with a friend on her land in the country. The lane from the main road back to her cabin is bordered with trees, and the tips of the leaves at the very top of the maples are already tinged crimson. Berry picking is fun alone, but when you drop two playful souls into a mass of thorny, blackberry studded vines, the result is guaranteed comedy. As we pressed deeper and deeper into the vines, our eager fingers reaching for the large juicy berries hanging in dark clumps beneath the canopy of leaves, the thorns took hold of hair, sleeves, pant legs, and any exposed skin they could find. Suddenly our picking adventure became a painful game of twister, and the possibility of being permanently tangled in blackberry vines that would not let go very high. The fall sunshine fell down through the leaves, the breeze blew through the trees. Birds called out. Bees came and went. We shrieked and hopped, tripped and laughed our way through the vines. At the end of the afternoon our containers were brimming with inky berries, my friend’s fingers were stained purple (I was wearing gloves), exposed limbs looked like we had been in a cat fight we had lost-badly…and our cheeks were streaked from laughing ’til we cried. As we walked back up the lane to the cabin with our harvest my chest was swollen with joy, and when I glanced over at my friend and saw her grinning back at me the sparkle in her eyes told me that she felt the same.
On Sunday evening we were back out at her cabin watching the sun set through the forest, writing, talking and sipping tea by candlelight while we listened to the percussion of rain fall outside. After the last light was gone, it was well and truly dark, and the rain had passed, we went out on the deck to watch the spectacle of the starry sky and moon slowly rising up over the treetops. I spend a lot of time in nature alone, and am grateful for the time to commune in silence. But standing out there sharing awe at the vastness of the night’s sky with my friend expanded the sensation of connection, and as we wove our way back into town, the country road unfurling in front of us lit by moonlight, it was with an unspoken understanding that we will talk about our shared memory of the starry night at the cabin again in the future, and joy will undoubtedly bubble up every time we do.
What is your most recent memory of joy shared?