Swallows of Joy

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When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.
― Fred Rogers

Today is hot. I’m practicing the art of stillness to hold back the floodgates of sweat. It’s a useless endeavor, but if I can remain shower fresh for more than a moment, I win. Summertime is here. The lawn is no longer its lush, squishy green from rain. We now have hot days and warm nights, rain a rarity. My running pace lengthens as my sleep lessens. While I appreciate the longer days, I start to miss the chill.

Over the past seven years we have left the heat of the Colorado Front Range, spending weeks at our cabin in the mountains. But this year is different. With three teenagers invested in friends, jobs, and planning for college, along with my new church and career, leaving is not an option. The spontaneous days of packing up and taking off are over. The long days of restless youth requiring distraction are over. The strings of lazy summer days watching basement movies in the dark are over. Summers now looks strangely familiar to the rest of the year, except for longer days, sleepless nights, fewer clothes, and no school, of course.

I don’t think I am grieving this shift. I love the ages of my children as they become and gain independence. I love my work at Left Hand Church and the people I get to grow with into community. I love being home and tending to an infant garden and a pair of flower boxes and a host of plucky chickens. All brings respite to my soul in these tumultuous and confusing times.

I think the simplicity and purpose of my present life brings me joy, in the seeming small but most essential of ways.

And in these days fighting for joy is essential – as if our lives depend on it. We don’t get to fall victim to the bafflement and gaslighting of this administration. We have to do everything in our power to grasp joy through gratitude, self-care, friends and family, good food, flowers, decluttering, exercise.  Our greatest act of resistance – to participate in this subversive mining.

Joy is nonsensical. Joy throws people off their game. And joy, my friends, goes far beyond happiness. Happiness settles small with good hair and lost weight and fashionable clothes and new shoes and well-behaved children. We’ve got to get underneath the surface, to the foundations of our existence. And even though we wrestle hard with pain and despair and the tendrils of fear – joy is our savior. Joy is our hope. Joy is our resistance.

These days, seeking to be a well-informed citizen is so hard. As we balance on this precipice of being wide awake, the temptation is to creep back, to stay safe. I get it for there is a time for this. But, for those of us with privilege, we have a great responsibility to our democracy and to one other. If we have privilege, we have a duty to remain informed, to feel, to be curious, to seek. And if we have privilege, we also get to take a break, see a movie, drink a beer, and laugh with friends. We get to escape to the cool of the mountain air, and we get to find hope in gardens and chickens and flowers.

This past week I took a walk on my usual route. I hopped on the bike path that winds me toward the peaks. I let my gaze bounce back and forth across the path, upwards towards the fluttering leaves and the silky clouds. I chose to listen to a podcast, but othertimes I need the sounds of nature to process the rattles in my brain. These walks heal as I wrestle with the fears and temptations that threaten to render me impotent.

I came to the underpass, about a mile in. Every year swallows return and rehabilitate and rebuild their nests along the creek corridor in the still darkness of the tunnel. Last year the nests were all destroyed, dumped into the shallow water below. I grieved and I lamented the callous stupidity, while also holding room for the possibility of a bored youngster with nothing better to do.

But this past week, the birds were back, each pair engaged in the diligent work of rehabilitation and rebuilding. Darting, diving, swooping, collecting tiny beakfuls of mud, the pairs operating in tandem to recreate their little lives under the bridge. I stood awed, grateful. Hope restored. Joy. The smallest thing, a thing of instinct, of subversive survival and resistance.

It all matters, friends.

We know what to do. It’s time to stop second guessing and wondering if we’re too much or if our feels are inconvenient for the stoic amongst us. Our instinct is to love, protect, return, rehabilitate, and build. May we find joy in the seeming small for this might be where our greatest hope lies.

Carry on friends. We’ve got good work to do.

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