Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sources of joy

I’m sitting in the living room of our little manufactured home on Shaw Island (though to input this to the blog I’ll need to park outside the library to use their free wi-fi), and the sun – which has only put in one or two appearances in the last month or two – is peeping through the lace curtains, casting patterns on the floor.

I left Bainbridge yesterday around noon and took a very leisurely drive up, stopping at antique stores along the way in hopes of finding an oddly shaped piece of furniture to put at the base of our stairwell. It was – as usual – a cool gray day, and I anticipated more of the same for the rest of the week, so it was a delight to hear the foghorns this morning: not only would that mean great photo opportunities, but also they’re a harbinger of sunshine, which almost always follows a thick fog.

I made it to Anacortes in plenty of time for the 7 pm ferry, and was delighted to find several old friends riding with me on the boat, all returning from various errands in town. We sat together and talked of simple things – baby chicks being killed by mink and raccoons, the proposed ferry schedule for fall, the possibility of a new pre-school building attached to the school… It was lovely to be included in the conversation, and when I told my husband about it later on the phone, he got it immediately. “You’ve come home,” he said. “You’ve come home.”

And that’s really how it feels: there’s a clarity, and a coolness – like standing under a waterfall – to life here, on this island; a sense of belonging and purpose, of privacy and peace and yet protection and acceptance and comfort.

And above all, connection. I spent a couple of hours this morning driving around to old familiar places and taking pictures, and every spot had a bit of personal history to color it. This boat, for example, I first photographed in 1997, on a foggy day where water, sky and dock were all gray and the boat was perfectly reflected in the colorlessness, with a seagull swimming nearby. The image sold several times over, and was the inspiration for several years spent photographing boats almost exclusively.

The boat, now dappled in sunlight, is still lovely; it’s good to see it again. And what I feel, as I capture this boat and so many other island scenes, is a wash of what feels like pure joy. Which is interesting, because that’s the subject of this morning’s chapter in Soul Without Shame. Joy, says the author, Byron Brown, “is closely linked to desire. You desire what you take joy in, and the heart is filled with joy when it receives what it desires. For that reason you have grown up believing that joy is a result of getting what you want. There is some truth in this belief… and so desire leads you on in search of the food that you believe will fill your hungry heart.

“Only after much searching and many disappointments,” Brown says, “do you realize that the heart’s own freedom is what gives it joy…. Events and situations, people and places do not cause joy. At best they remove a barrier to joy’s arising. The true source of joy is the heart’s knowing and being itself without restraint.”

So does that mean my time here is NOT giving me joy? Obviously not; it only means I didn’t really need to come here to find joy. Something – probably my inner judge – that keeps me from feeling free when I am elsewhere seems to drop away when I am here. So perhaps my job is to spend some time here assessing exactly what is awakened and what is quieted when I am in this place, and then find ways to carry that quietness and awakening back with me when I return.

1 comment:

Maureen said...

It's lovely to end the evening reading your post and looking at that image, which conveys something inexpressibly beautiful about all that we have on this earth.