Finding joy in the ordinary…or is it?

American school-aged children my age or older were introduced to Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass  at some time along their educational journey. I’m sure I learned something about the basic structure, or maybe it’s best to say lack of structure, of the compilation of over 400 poems.

I don’t recall being particularly interested at the time, which looking back surprises me because I was very devoted to Emerson and Thoreau. Transcendentalist principles were an easy sell to a highschooler in  the ’60s.

But Whitman caught my imagination a little later.

The 1980 American musical film “Fame” followed a talented group of students through their years at the New York High School of the Performing Arts, and in the movie, the graduating class performed the finale “I Sing the Body Electric.” 

I devoured the soundtrack, repeatedly listening to the songs on my very spiffy 8-track tape, until it was wholly memorized.

The song’s title is from Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass,” and it was from that musical exposure that I began a lifelong appreciation for the great American poet.

And for this new year, I’m keeping a particularly favorite Whitman quote close at hand.

“Do anything, but let it produce joy.”

So would you like to see what has produced joy this week? Sure you would!

3 hawks

These three hawks, soaking up some late afternoon sun, certainly gave me more than a few moments of being joyful! I took this photo from my backyard, and it always gives me a burst of delight when I capture a glimpse of urban nature.

It pays to look up!

Deer

This photo takes a little extra imagination. Can you see it? The deer, I mean. I’m so sorry! It’s not your eyes…I can’t see it well either, but you’ll just need to trust me. She’s there, just very well camouflaged.

Instead of sitting in an office for an extra few minutes when I ran early for an appointment, I drove just a few blocks north–that would be towards the foothills- and on a homeowner’s lawn, what I at first mistook for a realistic piece of lawn art, moved!

I don’t have to tell you how excited I was. Poor little thing was probably hungry or thirsty in our very dry winter conditions, but there she stood, and I did the best I could with my iPhone, not daring to get very close or she’d have been frightened away.

I, on the other hand, don’t need a photo to recall how beautiful she was–a very unexpected visitor.

Averill Park

How about a visit to the local park to feed the ducks? A loaf of bread and two darling granddaughters and we were on another outdoor adventure. I’d do this every day if it were possible.

Joy is often captured in moments of opportunity…

Clover

…or humor.

I couldn’t help but laugh when Sophia picked a handful of weeds and gleefully announced to her sister, “Look! Clover!”

running up the hill

And then they just ran…and ran…and ran.

Freedom!

Now that’s pure joy when you’re 4 and 6…or even older.

I must say that sharing my moments of joy, with all these photos of the great outdoors, makes me just a little self-conscious.

I wish I could share some warmth and dry Southern California weather with my friends caught in the current Arctic Blast!

There is more than a 100 degree difference in temperatures coast to coast and I don’t even know how to process that information. Frankly, I didn’t know it was possible to get a windchill factor of  negative 50 degrees!

While you wait for warmer weather, and it will come, maybe artist Andrew Wyeth’s words will give you something to consider. I’m sure even the harshest winter landscape can be extremely beautiful.

“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape–the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it; the whole story doesn’t show.” 

Under all conditions,

We need to practice joy!

75 thoughts on “Finding joy in the ordinary…or is it?

  1. SO true. We can find joy in the most unexpected places, in the most unanticipated ways. I suppose joy is inevitably linked to spontaneity, to living in the magic of each and every moment. Such a lovely post. Thank you!

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

    • Thank you, Kathy. Now you know why your blog makes me very happy! You didn’t just look for joy, you swallowed it. LOL! I think you and I would get along famously–although I admit I’m not nearly as adventurous. hahaha! Thank you so much for stopping by–all the way from Ecuador!

    • I’m so glad to hear from you Mike. I hope 2014 is a really awesome year for you and your family. I would love to know what “California” Colin is experiencing in this frigid, freezing, arctic blast! He must be learning a whole new level of survival skills. Bless him! I think we have choices in how we perceive a lot of our existence, and joy is my word for the year. You may be hearing more about that. :-)

  2. That picture of the green grass and blue sky makes me want to run too! And I do love that quote “Do anything, but let it produce joy” – definitely a good motto for the new year. Thanks for sharing your moments of joy Debra! :D

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the photos and the direction to embrace joy, Cathy. I know that you must find many reasons to celebrate life. I really do believe that anyone dedicated to tending a garden and enjoying the outdoors feels a more natural pull in this direction. And it is definitely the direction I want to choose in this coming year. Thank you, my friend. :-)

  3. The cold of those near you does not sound pleasant… the photo of the deer is beautiful when one has a vivid sense of imagination… lol… loved the other photos and the whole post…

    • Yes, I don’t think my photos quite match up to yours, Rob. LOL! I laughed and laughed when I saw what I did NOT capture. At least I respected the poor animal and didn’t bother her just so I could get a good shot. :-) I think there is a lot of room for debate about my birds. They may not be hawks–I suppose you’ve already thought the same? I won’t go into all my thought process, but I’d definitely say they were strangers in our tree, and they aren’t typical of our area. They were also very large compared to most of the birds I see, and that may be why I jumped to a conclusion. No matter what they really were, they just passed through and I was so glad I was there to acknowledge them. Keep up the good photo taking…you inspire me!

      • I didn’t want to say anything as I’m no expert on your birds… but I did feel the beak was not an indication of a raptor, and they did look a little like a type of wood pigeon to me.. which are quite large birds… but who am I to argue…

      • You’re very kind, Rob. Please don’t ever hesitate to say something if I mislabel an animal or bird. I am NO expert, that is for sure. LOL! I think in a way I might be even more excited about the pigeons, since they were obviously just visiting on their way to somewhere else! :-)

  4. Beautiful! How exhilarating to find joy in so many different places, unexpectedly, even for a few seconds!

    I love the quote about fall and winter. It’s an expectation and anticipation feeling…knowing that there is more, and it doesn’t yet show. :)

    • I love the Wyeth quote, too, Colleen. I have felt a strong sense of wondering what the year will bring, and a peaceful contemplation of all that could be. I often feel that way when a new year opens, but maybe I’ve been a little deeper in thought lately. We have a number of things going on within our family right now. Some are “hard” to take, and others really sweet and joyful. I have decided to emphasize the joy as much as we can! I’m glad I can share that from time to time…we all could use encouragement! ox

      • We sure can Debra. Thank you for sharing that with me. I appreciate your part of the world through your eyes and words. Here’s to focus and appreciating the joys, to help us through the difficult times.

  5. My first thought of the three birds was, “Wow … a hawk with 2 very large pigeons!” …. The pics of the ducks is spectacular! … Meanwhile, the deer pic also shows Sasquatch.

    • Hahahaha! You know, Frank, I may now better understand where Sophia gets her blind enthusiasm, labeling weeds “clover.” Her Nan sees what she wants to see. These very well may not be hawks, but as dandyknife suggests, Rock Pigeons, or a similar species. I knew the birds didn’t look exactly like the hawks we regularly “entertain,” but I also have never seen any pigeons or doves of this size in our area. The tree is very high, the photo cropped and I did my best to bring the image in close. I am limited in my ability to identify species to mostly the “expected” backyard visitors. Either way, I really loved their sunbathing, whoever they are. I’ll be on the lookout for Sasquatch! He and his kind may be coming out of the hills looking for water just like the little deer! :-)

  6. Thank you for sending such lovely nature pix our way! It’s not so cold here now, but walking is slippery.

    I think Frank’s first impression was closer to the truth, and you’ve got a gorgeous shot of three happy pidgie-pies. They could be hawks, but there’s no evidence in the photo of hooked bills, large eyes, mottled chest, banded tail, strong long legs, or long claws. Plus, raptors tend to be solitary.
    On the other hand, what you may well have scored is a trio of Band-tailed Pigeons! Apparently they’re a Pacific coast bird, they usually hang out in the woods, and maybe they only winter in your area. Feet and bills are yellow. Signs of the neck collar show on the top and bottom bird Google it and check the Cornell site.

    And yes, I see the deer! It’s facing right, towards the tree. Both ears and the right eye are visible, as is the curve of the back. Just tell it to watch out for the Sasquatch.

    • So funny about the would-be-but-no hawks. We actually didn’t at first think they were hawks either. And with further inspection I assume they’re not, but that is our “hawk tree,” so we jumped to conclusions. I have never seen pigeons or doves–any bird quite like these guys in our very much non-forested area! Because we live right up against a large golf course with a welcoming green-belt, we frequently have families of young hawks in our backyard–passing through looking for a meal at the bird feeders. This tree towers very high and I cropped the photo to get the image a little closer. I think I am just as impressed, even if not a hawk, seeing a pigeon or dove in such a towering tree. I wonder if this particular species was just passing through on a trip to Mexico! They didn’t stay long. Thanks for the direction. And I can say “I told you so” to my husband. I thought they looked a little different, but we certainly didn’t know what they were. Now as long we we don’t have any mountain lions…everything is on the prowl since we are experiencing the driest season in many years. The poor animals are struggling and coming down into neighborhoods. :-(

  7. Growing up in Sweden, we studied many poets, but not so much American ones, so after reading this, I will read some more Whitman. I have always wanted to practice finding joy in what I do, but, of course, the stresses of everyday life would too often interfere. Now that I live here and am retired from all that, I get up every morning and I practice. Fortunately for me, I know that joy can be found in the small, everyday things of life, as well as in the splendor of a magnificent sunrise. Thank you so much for this post. Happy New Year, Debra, and may it be filled with joy.

    • I think you definitely know how to find joy in the every day, Inger. I think living in the canyon with all it’s beauty and serenity doesn’t just naturally invite finding joy. Some people don’t accept the invitation, however, and I’m so glad you do. I think you’d really enjoy Whitmans’ “Leaves of Grass.” A wonderful on-line compendium can be found HERE. You’ll see he was rather prolific, and some people don’t care for his almost rambling style. But if you sit with him a bit, he becomes a good friend. Happy New Year to you as well, my friend. :-)

  8. Love the quote you chose. My favorite from Leaves of Grass:

    Dear comerado! I confess I have urged
    you onward with me, and still urge you,
    without the least idea what is our destination,
    Or whether we shall be victorious, or utterly quell’d and defeated.
    Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

    • This is a wonderful “piece” of Whitman’s poetry, Nancy. Thank you for it. I could never really digest all that he has written, so I appreciate being directed in particular directions. He really knew how to make the human spirit soar! Have a wonderful day. :-)

    • That’s what it takes, I think! Getting out and making the most of it–whatever that means and under whatever conditions. i’m so glad you had a milder day and could get out and enjoy! :-) It’s good for the soul.

    • You really do have a joy in running, Lori, that’s true! I loved being with the little girls and watching them run free. There is little time for children to do that, it seems. But you’re proof we can always find some freedom outdoors. That’s a good reminder to me, my friend. ox

    • I am a Thoreau enthusiast, too, Tom, but my interest is shared among some of the other Transcendentalists, thus sparing me being labeled, even self-labeled, a “nut.” My general enthusiasm diffuses some of the intensity. LOL! I’m glad you enjoyed. :-)

  9. Such a lovely happy post. I can’t see the deer, but I love the photo of the ducks on the pond. Thank you for all the great quotes. I’m going to put this one on my forehead:
    “Do anything, but let it produce joy.”

    • I couldn’t find the deer in the photo either, Rosie. Isn’t that the most horrid photo, but I really didn’t want to spook the poor little thing. I think I will follow suit and put the Whitman quote on my forehead, too! Maybe then I won’t forget it. ox

    • I need regular doses of outdoor play, Andra! I work in an office and I get restless. I’m really glad you could see the deer; I took the photo and I couldn’t find it in the picture. LOL! But at least I enjoyed a few moments of the real thing! :-)

    • I’m glad you stopped by and enjoyed my “joyful” photos, Amy. I live in a very densely populated suburban area and when I can find wildlife close at hand and a beautiful park to share with my granddaughters I am always very happy–joyful! :-)

  10. I had to step back from from computer to see the deer, and there she was. Isn’t it amazing how well they are camouflaged? Even though we live with deer here, they still surprise me when I’m out walking.

    Debra, I loved this post and truly appreciated the quote from Andrew Wyeth, who is one of my favorite artists (we saw his paintings in Philadelphia some years ago now). I agree with him, and you, completely. As you know, I enjoy the winter beauty, though this arctic vortex we are under is a bit much to bear. The quote is now handwritten in my commonplace book, where I’m sure I will retrieve one day. Thank you.

    All your photos are lovely, but, the one of the pond and ducks is breathtaking. You really should frame it, my friend.

    • I think you have better eyes than I do, Penny! I took the photo of the deer and yet I really can’t see it. I got the giggles when I was writing the post because I was positive I’d taken the picture, but the photo was so poor it was almost silly to even share it. I do think we may have more wildlife in populated areas this winter if we continue to go without rain. I will enjoy that, but it really is distressing for the animals. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Penny, and maybe I will try to print the one photo of the pond. It was such a lovely day, I’d enjoy looking at it from time to time. :-)

      • I knew it was there, but, couldn’t quite find it until I stepped back several feet. Tada! There it was. Sometimes, walking toward the very back of our yard, which is the length of a football field, I’ll catch movement or just look and there will be deer in the brush, resting. I’ve become more accustomed to their habits, Debra.

        What I really wanted to come back and say, however, was to encourage you to print the photo out of the pond. It is a wonderful composition. You can even get card stock from hobby stores, and tape it on the front and use as a note card to friends. I’m not patronizing, dear friend, just so blown away by the beauty of the photo and proud of your “eye”.

      • Thank you for the encouragement, Penny. I am going to see what I can do with the photo! I take so many photos and never do a thing with them. I don’t know why…I just seem to “move on” to the next thing. I will have some fun with this one! Have a wonderful weekend, my friend. ox

  11. what an excellent theme for your year Debra, do anything … but let it produce joy! thanks for these joyful photos, joy i love the simple things, the surprises, in life itself, so easily observed in children:) we warm people do feel a little spoilt while hoping for others to survive the cold blast …

    • Thank you, Christine. I do hope to make the most of this year, and spending time sharing the outdoors with my little granddaughters will undoubtedly produce many such joyful moments! Your summer is just getting underway and I enjoy your photos very much. Even though we don’t experience a very cold winter, everything is quite dormant and I start dreaming of spring right about now. LOL! I hope you have a delightful weekend!

  12. Okay, now I am convinced that we share DNA. “Fame” is one of my all-time favorite films. I know I say that about lots of movies, but “Fame” must be at the top of the list because it’s the only movie I actually based a party on when it first aired on HBO. My friends came over — and yes, we danced on the car. I have the album, which I have since converted to a CD — and while I do love “Hot Lunch Jam,” I can never get enough of listening to or viewing “I Sing The Body Electric.” If this connection isn’t about finding joy, I don’t know what is! :)

    • I just love that you actually had a “Fame” party! Wow! What a fun event that must have been, Kevin! I hope you took photos–especially of dancing on the car! I haven’t seen it in years yet I can picture the characters and remember many of the musical scenes. I really need to see if Netflix is streaming it and watch it again! Yes, between Fame and Mary Tyler Moore our entertainment memories are very in synch. I’m so glad you share. :-) Have a wonderful weekend!! And you never know…we definitely could be related. LOL!

    • Since bringing up the movie “Fame” and remembering the television shows, too, I’ve wondered if some of the episodes might not be available through Hulu or one of the streaming sites. I suddenly feel very nostalgic about that show. :-)

  13. You should never feel self-conscious, this brings so much joy for those of us stuck in colder weather! It’s a lovely escape! I went to feed the ducks with my mom when I was about that age.. and those moments of joy stuck forever.. I’m sure it will be the same for your sweet girls!! It’s so nice being back here!! Happiest of New Years!! xxx

    • It’s really lovely to hear from you, Smidge. I think many of us have memories of simple pleasures, like feeding the ducks, with either a parent or grandparent. I really do feel so fortunate that I live close enough to the girls to be able to give them some of those same memories. Thank you for the New Year wishes, and of course, I hope it is a full and blessed year for you and your family, too. ox

    • I know what you mean about memories with duck ponds and such simple pleasures. I think that’s why I take my granddaughters. My own grandmother used to take me to a local duck pond, and I have such lovely memories myself. I’m glad we could share!

  14. Debra, my thoughts exactly. I have been marvelling at how, somehow, even in the wind and the rain we have experienced, our earth is beautiful and the joy of some of its inhabitants infectious. It is a wonderful world.

  15. Pingback: Darwin foraged for succulents, and I cranked up the music. A perfect weekend! | breathelighter

  16. Very thought-provoking, Debra. We sometimes need to learn again the lesson that we can find joy and even beauty in the most unpromising circumstances. My DH would strongly agree with Andrew Wyeth on the primacy of autumn and winter. He too talks about the bones of the landscape showing through and nowadays I really appreciate what he means.

    • I also thought the Wyeth quote was really wonderful, Perpetua. It made me really consider the beauty of a stark, winter landscape. I have no experience with harsh winters, but everything here is still brown and mostly dormant. But because spring comes early to Southern California, I’m already seeing little signs! Little, but I notice, and that does make me joyful! :-)

  17. Outstanding post! I don’t think they would feel envy seeing this post. They would be reminded of joyful sunny days. You did really great composing this esp. with the “look at the bright side” ending quotes.

  18. I love the clarity of light in the duck pond photo. The three ‘Hawks’ has a certain abstract quality that I like :-) I have an anthology of Whitman and would agree that he can be hard work though a little effort to read one of his poems from time to time can be very rewarding. My personal favourite poets are – in something resembling date order – John Donne, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Roger McGough and Ted Hughes. Quite a mix there! ;-)

    • I don’t know roger McGough or Ted Hughes, Martin. I will make a point to “visit” them. I think I would have to agree with you about Donne. I am never disappointed. Thank you for the comments about the photography. My poor camera just couldn’t get any “closer” to the hawks, and I didn’t have any way to frame it beyond just getting a shot! I think the duck pond photo was just lucky! I really do. It turned out to be such a pretty photo, and the way I was snapping, I think it helped that it really was a beautiful afternoon! :-)

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