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Christine DeSmet Asks What Is Your Definition of Joy?

Christine DeSmet is the author of the Fudge Shop Mystery Series set in Door County, and the Mischief in Moonstone Series set in northwest Wisconsin. You can find out more about her here, see her books here, and read her last post here.

I’m seeing a few blogs and social media messages about “joy” because June is the month when school gets out, and of course we’re emerging from a winter’s pandemic nap.

But it’s interesting the blogs don’t usually dig deep into the origins of the feeling of joy for the individual blogger. 

How did you learn what “joy” is versus any other emotion? It’s not the same as happiness.

When I challenged myself on this issue, my heart went to Father’s Day, which is in June of course.

My father “cultivated” joy. He knew how to sow it, tend it, grow it, and reap it.

I’m an author and I also work as a writing coach, mentor, and instructor for writers. My motto for myself and for writers I work with has always been “Write with joy, and finish with finesse.” Writing a novel, short story, or anything well involves hard work, but writing also has to be about joy, or else why do it? Why did that motto come so easily to me and define my years of hard work on behalf of other writers?

My father. At least he’s partially responsible. He felt the same way about farming—all that hard work should end with joy.

Dad smiled with glitter in his eyes when he viewed his Holsteins grazing in the pasture after the evening milking. Joy was also a newborn heifer calf. “It’s a heifer!” he’d declare with a huge grin. For you non-farmers, heifers grow up to be cows that give milk, and milk is money to a dairy farmer.

Joy was rain after the corn was planted. “Smell that rain!” Dad would say. He and Mom encouraged us kids to play in the rain—without an umbrella and not when there’s lightning present of course. Joy has a smell to it, too—like rain.

Joy was Dad beaming at eighty acres of corn limned with the golden light of dusk. On some evenings, our family of Dad, Mom, and five little kids took a long walk in the lane between the cornfields. You’ve heard of “forest bathing” which is used to find your inner joy by walking in the woods. Well, “crop bathing” is what farmers do.

According to the dictionary, joy is “delight, pleasure openly and enthusiastically expressed.”

How did I express joy as a kid? There were those long walks, but there were also those cows that had to be brought up from the pasture to the barn for milking. Sauntering on the narrow dirt cow paths behind the Holsteins, I’m not embarrassed one bit to say I loved belting out the lyrics, “There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow…and the corn is as high as an elephant’s eye…”

Those lyrics from the musical “Oklahoma!” define joy. The Gordon MacRae version is best, which you’ll find on YouTube through a Google search for “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.”

Joy is also associated with flowers. My dad’s favorite was the gladiolus. “Glads” are tall spikes in the garden that bloom in a rainbow of colors. The name comes from the Latin “gladius,” or sword. The flower symbolizes strength and integrity, which my father demonstrated as a dairy farmer raising five kids with only 40 cows on 160 acres. Coincidentally, the gladiolus is the birth flower for August and his birthday was in that month.

Dad had joy on his face—revealed by a sparkle in his blue eyes—when perusing Mom’s glads in the garden or on our big farm table. He would tell Mom, “Those are boooootiful, Mother!”

If Dad were still on this Earth, I’d bring him a bouquet of glads for Father’s Day. And then we’d take a walk in the golden haze of a summer’s evening. That would be pure joy.

What makes you want to sing, “Oh, what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day?” Why? What’s your origin-story for your definition of “joy”?

Christine DeSmet

Christine DeSmet is the author of the Fudge Shop Mystery Series set in Door County, and the Mischief in Moonstone Series set in northwest Wisconsin. You can find out more about her on her website, christinedesmet.com, or follow her on Facebook.

This Post Has 19 Comments

  1. Great post, Christine! Your examples of joy really resonated with me. I also grew up in the country with cattle, although my dad raised registered Herefords and Limousin cattle instead of Holsteins. Joy was riding horseback while pushing cows from one pasture to another, riding with Dad in the truck to go check on the baby calves, and riding the tractor with him while he plowed the wheat field. As an adult, my Joy has changed to hiking in the mountains of Colorado, hanging out with my family, watching the clouds as we hope for rain, and cuddling with our dogs and cats. Simple things and nature bring me joy!

  2. Sherrill Joseph

    What a beautiful post, Christine! And I learned a new word: limned. Love it. You were so fortunate to have a joyful, positive dad who passed that feeling on to you through sincere living. I find more joy these days because I feel at peace with my life having survived the speedbumps of youth. I’m content in my little vintage house with my sweet dog Jimmy Lambchop and wonderful neighbors. I have a talented, successful daughter who’s given me two grandchildren. I’m surrounded by great books. And in the evenings, when the moon is full, my garden looks magical. Joy is all around me. Lucky me.

  3. Sherrill Joseph

    Hi again, Christine. I just had another thought based on your post. Have you ever read any books by Victoria Price? She’s the daughter of actor Vincent Price. She wrote a book entitled Living Love in which she talks about how her dad was her role model for living a loving, joy-filled life. His was a life enriched by surrounding himself with positive people and art.

    1. Christine DeSmet

      I have not read that. Thanks, Sherrill, for that tip.

  4. Joy Ann Ribar

    Such a lovely tribute to your dad! I could read your “joy” in every sentence. My hearts sings with joy when I play with my grandchildren, when I sing in my church choir and when I hold hands with my hubby after a particularly trying time. Thanks for asking those questions so I can examine my gratitude box and all its treasures again. And, congratulations again on Undercover Fudge!

    1. Christine DeSmet

      Thanks, Joy!

  5. Laurie Buchanan

    Christine —

    I enjoyed reading this beautiful tribute to your father—your JOY is evident throughout this post. I also learned that you’re one of five siblings. I wonder where you fall in the lineup?

    Len and I just returned from a four-day camping trip with our almost-three-year-old granddaughter, Luna. Watching her eyes light up as she discovered things in nature brought JOY to our hearts.

    1. Christine DeSmet

      I’m the oldest. Sounds like you had fun with that granddaughter!

  6. Love your theme of Joy, Chris! I was a townie (Michigan’s Upper Peninsula). Joy was hanging out with friends until dusk in the summer, roller skating and bike riding, going to the beach, extended family picnics at our huge city park with cousins who came from out of town every summer. And of course, reading. I loved reading. I remember walking home from our small-town, Carnegie-funded library–where the librarian knew every kid–with an armful of books. And my Dad, too, figured in all these memories. Thanks for such a joyful post!

    1. Christine DeSmet

      Thanks, Peggy! The townie life was foreign for me and I envied the kids who had all that access to the library all summer long. I had some books now and then if a relative came to the farm with a donated batch of books. On rare occasion Mom might have time to drive “to town” and let us check out a book, but in my memory I only recall one time perhaps. I was busy as a child stacking bales, cleaning the barn, feeding calves, weeding the garden and of course getting those cows up from the pastures for milking. My spare time was often spent oil painting, which I was fairly decent at and my parents’ lake home (owned by a nephew now) still has a landscape of mine capturing the farmstead.

  7. Larry F. Sommers

    A beautiful post, Christine. I think you have to put joy in to get joy out. But you’re right . . . it’s something a person can master, as your dad obviously did.

    1. Christine DeSmet

      Thanks, Larry. You’re a joyful person yourself and you write with that attitude, too, which I’ve always admired.

  8. Patricia Skalka

    Christine,

    This was so very touching. You were given the gift of joy. Thank you for sharing it with us. I have thought of this piece every day since I first read it. My Uncle George, also a farmer, was like your father — you have brought back many fond memories and made me realize how important it is to look for joy in our lives.

    1. Christine DeSmet

      Patricia, I’m touched by this reply and message. Thank you for telling me this resonated with you. It’s fun to hear that you had a farmer in the family and can relate. Wishing you well with everything that keeps you busy and brings you joy–including your own mystery series.

  9. Tracey Phillips

    Christine, that was lovely! Gladys are my favorite flower, and the color your photo is beautiful. You’re absolutely correct about the importance of feeling joy in life. By the way, one of my piano student is currently playing the Gordon McRae song from ‘Oklahoma’. It’s an earworm that I don’t mind. I love it!
    Thank you so much for this wonderful post!

    1. Christine DeSmet

      I love it that your student was playing that song. What a coincidence!

  10. Ellen

    Ms. DeSmet, this post brought (happy!) tears to my eyes! Perfection! Thank you.

  11. David de Felice

    Christine, such lovely thoughts! Today, I found joy in your writing.

    1. Christine DeSmet

      Thanks, David! Best wishes for your writing. I know you’re busy with a great manuscript.

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