(This post was originally sent as a letter in the Joy Center summer mailing. Happy summer to everyone!)
Let yourself be enchanted in small ways. Guy Kawasaki
I can hardly contain my excitement. Right now, our son, daughter-in-law and baby grandson, Viren, are in their car heading east. They started out this morning at their home base in Laramie, with the intention of driving through the South Dakota Black Hills and Badlands before sunset tonight, and arriving in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan sometime tomorrow evening. “Take your time!” I told them. “Enjoy the journey!” And I’m enjoying the journey, the Preparation Journey, for this month-long adventure of a house full of people. Okay, I admit it; it’s the prospect of hanging out with a twelve month old for days on end that sets my spirit flying. Summertime is amazing enough with its balmy breezes and expansive days, with its blossoms and berries and white sandy beaches. If we allow ourselves to relax into it, it’s easy to discover the enchantment of a sparkling afternoon spent along the sandstone shore of Lake Superior or an evening sprawled out on the grass watching the sun sink behind the trees and the first stars pop out in a sky that seems to go on forever. We don’t need a baby to remind us that the world is enchanted when we are looking at it with eyes filled with wonder and appreciation. AND, having a baby around as a reminder sure helps.
As I watch Cam hang the bright blue bucket swing from the maple in our backyard, as I remove all the books and breakables from the bottom shelf of the bookcase in our family room, as I place the thick-paged colorful stories and the toys that I have so mindfully collected on that same shelf, as I scan our house and yard for the obviously toddler-treacherous traps, I find myself seeing the world anew. I find myself seeing the world as I imagine Viren will be seeing it. He was born, almost a year ago, with his eyes wide open, astonished it seemed with this place he found himself. I was honored to be present moments after his birth, honored to witness this wide-eyed beginning. He stared right into his parents’ eyes; he stared right into my eyes, too, transfixed with our voices and the newness of it all. And these blueberry-blue eyes of his have remained wide open throughout this first year; they hardly seem to blink.
What would it be like to have eyes that hardly blink, eyes that take things in so deeply?!? As Cam secures the bucket swing on the maple, I look around our backyard. When is the last time that I’ve really seen these white pines that hold our property in their embrace? I love white pines! As a child I looked forward to trips to the nearby town of Brunswick on the back road, through the wooded forest of tall stately Bowdoin College white pines. They seemed magnificent to me, so different from the pointy spruces and scraggly pines along the coast. And here they are, this same type of tree that I was drawn to in my youth, and I hardly notice the ones in my own backyard. Until now, that is, when I’m looking straight up through their branches and realizing that they have grown even more huge, far to hefty to wrap my arms around and hug. And there’s more to look at – a red squirrel is chattering from one of the pine’s branches, and I know that Viren, who has spent the first year of his life in the high plains of Wyoming, will be enthralled with the red squirrels and the chipmunks and the bright yellow finches that land on the nearby feeder. Our yard is a summertime feast when my eyes are open to it. A salmon-colored peony, wide-petaled and wonderful, adds color to the garden and the Japanese Iris are in full bloom. Arugala and lettuce and beet greens are ready to pick and a robin is nesting in the apple tree in front of the house.
And I haven’t even left my property yet, haven’t even explored the neighborhood with these wide-open eyes. The dogs, the cats, the children at play – who knows what treasures will show up while pushing a stroller around the block?!? And there’s a bigger world still, a world of ice cream cones and sidewalks and favorite stores, and there’s a lake that is as wide-eyed and blue as those blue-berry blue baby boy eyes, and a shoreline of sand and stone and waves and sea gulls and surfers. And then there’s Joy Center, too. A place that shines its bright light all year long, a place that says that it is safe to open our eyes a little wider, safe to play a little harder, that says it is safe to unleash that natural inclination toward fun. I invite you to go for fun in the coming days and weeks and months and to let Joy Center be a part of your summertime playground. I’ll meet you there, with my eyes wide-open! Happy summer!