Creating Joy Along the Way

Most mornings, I walk my dog knowing we both need the fresh air and exercise. He is always ecstatic and bounds into the air leaping for joy. We’ve decided that if he had a word that describes him it would be “now”. Let’s play ball now, let’s go for a walk now, let’s go in the car now, etc. Bottom line, he’s a now dog. He teaches me to be in the present and create my joy. I like the simplicity of this; simple but not easy.

It’s a lot of work to get it simple, to see what’s real, to remember what’s really a priority. I now know that the roots of these values were planted back on a Kansas farm.

I grew up in eastern Kansas and going to my grandparent’s farm offered such a rich and diverse set of life lessons. I remember the dirt road to the farm had several good hills, which is a rarity in that neck of the woods. My two sisters, brother, and I would always make a big deal of the stomach lurches going down and the wide-eyed anticipation zooming back up that hill. We’d pull into the circle drive between the white, two-story house and the big red barn. Several cars and families were already there. We pile out of the car like puppies and opened the white picket fence gate, anticipating the cousins, food, and fun.

When I think back, there was always a sense of joy there. I have a large extended family so sometimes there would be 40 people there and lots of kids. The best food around was in that house. I was loved there, not just by my grandparents, but by the aunts and uncles too. The adults sat around and talked a lot about the weather and related environmental issues, their kids, farming, hunting, and members of the family. It was as natural as the seasons. The adults in the dining room talking, the kids playing with the coolest marbles behind the couch, and other kids climbing the barn ladder to the hay loft. As kids, we’d sneak into the kitchen and scope out the dessert choices. Grandma would put the ironing board up in the kitchen just to put the cookies, pies, and cobblers because there was so much food. This was joy.

I’d find some time to sneak out of the house and then attempt the real feat of not being seen by one of the 20 plus other kids and head out to my favorite meadow alone. I loved the smell of the black, rich dirt as well as the sharp smell of the rows of Cedar trees used for a windbreak. I’d cross the field, past the pond and near where some cows were grazing. I’d keep a special look out for the bull, which usually was off by himself. I’d slip through the Cedar tree windbreak and pop out into this beautiful meadow which I’d claimed as mine. In the Spring, the flowers would be so brilliant and assorted, looking like a box of Trix cereal. I’d run up the hill like Julie Andrews in “The Sound of Music” singing at the top of my lungs. Yea, yea, yea, no one to hear me!!! I loved it, feeling silly at times, but still loving it so.

As I reflect on the past ten years of my life, I am amazed at how driven I was. Gotta do more. So much to do being a mother, wondering who I really am, giving to others from my soul. All so good and still so much.   I was pushing for the joy and found a lot of it but I was still pushing. I abruptly got the message to slow down, simplify and listen. I did and went through a time of much unknown, letting go again and again, listening, being present, and letting creativity flow. Life began to slip into another pace from a more peaceful place.   I realize now that my grandparent’s farm has been a anchor, a safe place inside, to remind me of the blessings of community, the smell of the rich, dark earth, and the importance of enjoying the moment, one simple second at a time. Just right now…Just right now.