JULY 2011. Our sweet, sweet next door neighbors, the Copes, had just put in a pool. This thrilled their tiny children (who are nearly grown—how does this happen) to no end and still the joy of those kids hardly compared to the joy of their dog. Sully swam lap after lap every morning, perfecting the corner turn and ultimately shedding 15 pounds!
We lost precious Sully on Monday.
His swimming days may have been long past, but the happy he brought to all of us who loved him never wavered.
Now I see it every time I pull in the driveway or walk up the stairs or step out our side porch door.
A sweet, empty bird nest, perched ever so perfectly on a long thin branch of our Japanese Maple. It lifts toward the sky, that branch, with a nice view of the lake–a lovely place to build a home and lay some eggs and raise some tiny baby birds.
And still there is another reason this little winter scene brings me so much joy.
I never knew it was there.
Even with my focus on filling the feeders and cleaning the birdbath (for which I had to pass right under this branch), and even for my obsessive monitoring of the bluebird box outside my big studio window, and even with the excitement of chickadee babies this year, I spent the entire spring/summer season not knowing this little beauty was there.
Oh, the gifts of winter, when the leaves drop and gorgeous secrets are revealed!
It has become the topic about which we talk, text and email most often, we dear friends, coworkers, digital contacts, casual acquaintances, people thrown together in the Publix checkout line. It’s rather a phenomenon, I would say, this coming together in light of deep division in our country. (So many opinions. So many binge-worthy options.) It’s nothing we planned or decided or even discussed up front, yet here we all are, parked in front of our televisions, the obsession having taken root so fastidiously it is impossible not to watch.
(This thing is so good we knitters put down our needles and Sit Up And Pay Attention, not wanting to miss a single smirk, or side glance, or eyebrow raise. And that, my friends, is saying something.)
Of course it’s The CrownI’m talking about, the little Netflix gem that’s taking the world (or U.S. and Great Britain) by storm and which is considered by many to be just about the finest television drama ever.
IT’S SO GOOD!!!
For starters, it’s the most expensive television series ever made, and this uncompromising commitment shows. Every scene comes to life in way that feels both remarkable and authentic. (I know that seems like a contradiction but I promise you it’s not.) Youareinthemidstofit whether in Buckingham Palace, Scotland’s Castle Mey, or the wilds of Kenya (cue the elephants!).
There’s Clare Foy, the actress who plays Queen Elizabeth with such elegance and restraint you not only see the monarchy’s weight as it sits on her perfectly squared shoulders, you feel it heavy on your own. Oh the painful, gut-wrenching (not that she’d use that phrase) decisions that woman must make in the best interest of her country! And that’s not even considering her responsibilities (and forced loyalties) as head of the Church of England.
And those clothes. Oh, the clothes! Particularly Princess Margaret, who is without a doubt the most beautifully dressed woman in television history. (Vanessa Kirby sure does wear them well.)
There are a billion other reasons to covet this show. Can I really not mention:
WE’VE JUST RETURNED from a weekend in New Orleans, a long haul trip we made to watch the college playoff Sugar Bowl between my beloved Clemson Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide. It was a high expectations matchup between the two contenders in last year’s high drama National Championship–suffice it to say there was a lot riding on this game. There was also a lot of time in the car (1300 miles) and a little bit of time on Bourbon Street (lunch+) which I have to say was quite the blast.
The game’s outcome, though? Not so much.
Still the experience was a powerful way to kick off a new year because it set my feet squarely on the ground, reconciling giddy, hopeful, the-world-in-bright-colors possibility with loss and disappointment and the sobering gray of acceptance; because sometimes your heart feels battered and beaten* and then something happens that fills it with the joy of an even more brilliant light.
(*Lest you think I am being overly dramatic I should tell you there was a fan in front of us who turned and taunted and insulted so obnoxiously officials ultimately removed him from the stands. Believe you me, my heart felt stomped on.)
BUT THEN THE JOY came, unexpected as it was, and it happened like this.
There was that awful late game moment when in a single play the hand wringing stops and your husband (usually the optimist) turns and says, “That’s it, baby. That’s the game.” And you know it’s true but still you can’t grasp it, still your hope holds on to hope in spite of every single available odd.
The clock clicks on, and time expires, and a giant lump forms in your throat. It’s surprising because it’s not so much for the “L” but for every senior on that team, for every player of every age who has spent so much of the year–and years before that–doing the gut-wrenching physical, mental, and emotional work it takes to be a great competitor. It’s for the men on that field who just yesterday were boys and through commitment and grit and tenacity brought happiness and pride and a collective spirit of one to the greater Clemson family.
You stay on your feet. You watch them cross to midfield where, helmets tucked under arms, they meet the victors for good sportsmen handshakes and “good game” acknowledgements over and over and over. Then they turn back, facing their disappointed fans, and make the long, painful walk toward the locker room.
You can hardly take it. You want to wrap your arms around each and every one, hugging them tight, thanking them, remembering the season and the fun wrought purely from their hard work and dedication. Holding their tender hearts in your gentle, grateful hands.
And then they do this.
That team, standing together in loss, swaying and singing the Clemson alma mater.
IF YOUR COLLEGE FOOTBALL loyalties lie elsewhere I hope you haven’t given up on this post, for I don’t mean it to be one about Clemson, per se. Fans of every team have experienced the same proverbial thrills and awful, dreadful defeats. It’s the stuff college football is made of, after all, this pendulum intent on proving we never know what will happen season to season, week to week, play to play. We ride the wave, we fans, and we hang our hopes–hang them high–on the backs of student athletes all across the country who game after game shoulder what must be a smothering burden.
And then they do something that demonstrates an understanding that the game itself is actually the least of it, that it’s showing up, and supporting each other, and being people of substance that matters. That winning feels fantastic and is glorious (believe me, I am NOT knocking winning, which I celebrate thoroughly) but that victory can also come through hard work, dignity, character, loyalty.
I WISH THE GAME had turned out differently. Of course I do. But as I make my way through this shiny new year filled with hope and promise, every time I face adversity or am forced to deal with disappointment I will remember the example set for me by the band of brothers on that field in the Superdome.
It was December 26th before I noticed it, this little something something about our Christmas tree. No doubt this is because a bit of my attention was drawn to the slew of presents beneath it, the wonder and excitement of the promise held by each and every package.
They were so pretty. There were so many! Finally Christmas morning dawned, and dressed in our matching PJs with Hendel’s Messiah playing in the background, we commenced to opening.
It was joy upon joy upon joy. Something so thoughtful and meaningful from Eliza. A surprise chosen (with no suggestions from me) from Tim. Gifts and treasures from friends and family so perfect we paused between nearly every unwrapping for a photo or a text or a giggle.
And then came breakfast, and roasting the turkey, and an afternoon of straightening up.
By 3 the tree base was bare, and I spent a glorious Christmas night in that very room, sitting by the fire, a new (gifted) novel in my hands. Still it took until the morning of the 26th before I noticed it.
Now I cannot not see it.
Another Christmas miracle, I thought. There all the time, and yet it took the excitement of the day–and the stripping away of the packages and wrappings and ribbons and bows–for me to see it. For this little fir cross to come into my heart and remind me of the larger story: the joy, and the pain, and promise of love, everlasting.
Good news to all who woke a bit blue this morning. Christmastide is here! Christmas is a season, not a day. Advent asked us for many days of watching and waiting. Now Christmas asks us for 12 days of joy. Party on. Take time and eat well. Enjoy the ones you love. See good movies. Take walks. Give the kids a little extra space. Pray for peace and goodwill the world over. Save a little gift for a surprise later. In all, thank God for all the joy.
Light has come.
Let us rejoice and be glad!
30 Days of Joy
error: Content is protected !!
Looking for a little inspiration? Sign-up for Grace Notes, my weekend newsletter filled with books, links, quotes, music, podcasts, binge TV I love! click here