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”?