by Ann Woldt
My soul is filled with small joys.
The first glimmer of light streaking over the neighboring hill, coming in my window, tickling my closed lids, beckoning me, waking me, coaxing me out of sleep. “Open your eyes, see me, follow me as I light your world, watch the night animals slide quietly to their dens, the morning birds rustle and shake loose their wings. You are seeing me; you are blessed with yet another day.”
And I am filled with joy to be alive
The full moon, reflecting down on the prairie path, lighting the way of the bear, her nose in the air, sniffing the night air, trundling towards the compost heap. Can she think? Does she think? Does she wonder about those humans, that other species, so wasteful, such good food awaiting her, not able to contain her excitement as small grunts pour from her snout?
And I am filled with joy to watch her.
The call of the barred owl, eight mournful notes, repeated and echoing through the early night, answered by his mate on the other side of the field. Whose names are they calling this night? Who will hear them and know that it is their time? Not me, not yet.
And I am filled with joy to hear their calls, and then the silence of the night.
The butterfly weed, its flowers an orange so intense it seems to glow, dotting the prairie like glowing lanterns, its contrast with the grasses such that my eyes dart from flower to flower as I look across the field. The butterflies reveling in its sap, filling their tiny bellies with its sweetness; not a weed to them, but a source of nourishment and shelter for their young caterpillars as they grow and change into a new life.
And I am filled with joy to see the life around them.
My cats, my four steady companions, who don’t care that I’m old, or fat, or unable to walk, or cranky, or ill. All they know is that I have a large lap, I offer them food, I’m always ready to embrace them, stroke their backs, rub their bellies, scratch their necks. Their love seems unconditional; I’ve long given up on looking for that in my own species. Instead I gather them up in the early morning, one at a time, each giving his full attention to me, and I to him, his purrs rumbling deep in his chest, his head pressing into my arm, his paws kneading my bare legs. We become one for a brief time, sometimes nodding back into sleep, together.
And I am filled with joy as I feel their life under my hands.
The scent of the summer rain as it falls gently onto the grass, glistening, leaving drops like diamonds on the tall blades, forming tiny rivulets in the sand as it seeks a path down the path. Fresh, clean, washing away the dust of the hot day, cooling the air as it passes through it, sacrificing itself to the growth beneath it, the leaves longing for the wetness and nourishment it brings.
And I am filled with joy as I watch the dusty leaves unfurl to take in every drop.
The first flakes of snow in the winter, falling gently, lightly, tentatively. “Is it time, yet? Is it our time now? Are you ready for us to blanket the earth with our weight, to embrace the dead and dying leaves and cover them, hiding them, pressing down on them, holding them tight against the ground?” The flakes grow in intensity, filling the sky with their numbers, first covering the grass, then the walks and fence posts, and soon the drive. The world grows quieter.
And I am filled with joy as they fall, cleansing the world.
The first glimmer of green in the spring, so faint it seems not real. Am I imagining it? Am I so longing for the green that I am seeing it where it does not yet exist? No, it is there, a pale awakening of life, a miracle of growth from what appears to be dead, a resurrection of life. I don’t accept the notion that all living things can be resurrected, but I am comforted to see that once again there are living things that are. The tiny shoots push hard against the soil, straining for the light, shuddering at the cold air as they break through and uncoil, then widen and grow so quickly that if I forget to watch each day, they’re fully in bloom the next time I notice. I need to be more attentive.
And I am filled with joy.
I am filled with joy. I have awakened, and so I will live yet another day. Each day that I awake is a good day. Only I have the power to ruin it. How I act, how I respond, how I embrace the day is up to me. Each day is a new fresh opportunity, a new chance to do right, to make it right, to be right. I only have that power, and that responsibility. What will I do this day to make it better? What will I do before I sleep to leave my world a bit better than it was when I awoke? I start each day with great expectations.
And I am filled with joy.
Ann Woldt lives in rural Wisconsin on 15 acres of land, some of which she and her husband of 43 years, Ralph, have restored to native prairie. Ann has been a UU for 40 years, and a member of CLF for the last 13.