Joy! Doc Holliday, 2009 (photo by Liesl Zappler)

Joy! Doc Holliday, 2009 (photo by Liesl Zappler)

Finding joy. In my Merriam-Webster Dictionary, joy is located on the page headed by “jounce” (meaning: jolt) and “juice” (meaning: juice). Joy is defined as “a feeling of happiness that comes from success, good fortune, or a sense of well-being” also “a source of happiness” and is the synonym of bliss, delight, enjoyment and pleasure.

In sixth grade, our class was taken on a field trip to Dungeness Spit on the Olympic Peninsula. Mr. Mac, the bus driver, kept his eyes on US Route 101 and seemingly ignored our boisterous group rendition of Joy to the World (the Three Dog Night song featuring a bullfrog named Jeremiah). The song, released in 1970, had been around for a while by the time of the field trip, spring of 1971. Joy to the World got a lot of radio play. Everyone knew the lyrics. Our kid voices soared to near-shouts for “but I helped him drink his wine!” The teachers accompanying us were not impressed, but we were definitely exhibiting a sense of pre-teen well-being. In a word, joy.

A member of our household experiences great personal happiness on a daily basis. His name is Doc Holliday (pictured above). He’s ten years old, a half-beagle half-dachshund mix as far as we can tell. His passion: chasing ball. At the moment, his particular favorite is a small used-to-be tennis ball that used to have a squeaker. Though stripped down to black rubber and on the brink of splitting in two, it’s the ball he will always chase, indoors or outdoors. It’s the ball he can always find, even when it’s buried in the snow. It’s the ball that grows progressively slimy with each return, but, for the look of rapture on his face, a thorough scrubbing of human hands, post-play, is a trifling price to pay.

Winter in the Pacific Northwest brings dark days, not the optimal environment for finding joy. Therefore, joy must be cultivated. In my case, I do this literally by growing wheat grass for our indoor cats. Three small pots of the stuff are in rotation, so every week or so I experience the joy of witnessing renewal and growth as the new crop pushes above the potting soil. The cats like it, too, and it works as well as outdoor grass when it comes to yacking it up. But perhaps I’m straying from my subject.

It’s been a tough year, filled with personal realignments, deaths of family and friends, political outcomes that continue to make me feel wretched. In short, a year very much like the rest of them. Joy is a counter-balance to awful events large and small, though joy is fleeting and the awful moments tend to stick with us. Why is that, I wonder? It must have something to do with human survival. Maybe there’s only so much joy we can handle? And yet, all sorrows are etched with joy. The better world I envisioned with a different electoral outcome is one that I can still help make. Relocating and possibly going to graduate school are the outcomes of personal realignment. Contemplating the loss of loved ones brings with it a flood of lovely memories.

The key to finding joy is to look for it.

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