The Joy of the Soul: Part Two

When last we left you, John and I were digesting our delicious pie from a classic Maine diner and winding our way slowly inland toward John’s native soil. I believe you were sitting on the edge of your seat, waiting with bated breath to discover the second simple step to lifting up your spirit. Your patience, dear reader, shall not be in vain.

Step 2. Remember Childhood

When we arrived at John’s mom and step-dad’s, tired and ready to get some dinner, we decided to visit the local ice cream / hot dog stand. The evening was just starting to cool and the air was perfect for sitting on picnic benches outside a building so tiny it’s hard to believe they actually store and prepare quite tasty food inside it. This little ice cream stand is one of the icon’s of John’s childhood, and I confess that between the onion rings and the ice cream covered in sprinkles savored to the sound of families laughing and the sites of dogs looking longingly out the half-open car windows at the passing trays of hot dogs, I have myself become a fan.

Full of deliciously unhealthy food, we went back to the house and quickly got drawn into catching fireflies with our nephew. (Here’s a funny tidbit for you, folks. My blog name is taken from a Mark Twain quote; where I come from, we call them fireflies.) I was exhausted at that point, so I stood on the porch for a while watching John and our nephew romp through the damp grass after the flashes of light, talking with my mother-in-law. At some point in the game, it occurred to me that as much as I enjoy talking with my wonderful mother-in-law, I was missing out on an opportunity that I might one day look back on as rare, so I crept down the porch stairs to chase after my boys and help them imprison poor helpless bugs for a while. (Don’t worry – John snuck out to let them go once our nephew was distracted.)

This is cliche, I’m sorry, but there truly is magic in catching fireflies with people you love.

The next day began bright, but not too early, with some Saturday morning cartoons, pastries, and berry-picking. The last time I remember picking strawberries was when I was visiting my aunt in Massachusetts and she took us out to get strawberries for my absolute favorite pie in the whole world (her strawberry-rhubarb). John swears I’ve been strawberry picking with him before, but I think his brain is starting to rewrite itself to include me in memories I wasn’t yet around to witness. I do remember the day with my aunt and cousins, and the farmer who jokingly tried to weigh us as we left so he could charge us for all the berries we had eaten as we picked. Watching my nephew gather berries made me realize why: he got more around his mouth in juice stains, I believe, than ever made it to the inside of his green cardboard basket.

Can you blame him?

Our day continued in like kind, swimming in an icy lake and hunting crawfish. Tickling one another with grass and enjoying cookies on a dock. Piggyback rides and floating in the sun. The moments are as hard to capture in words as they are to forget: they’re precious. Childhood means different things to different people, but participating in the rituals that have made you feel safe and beloved through your life is not something to be neglected. For your soul’s sake, revisit the moments of belonging and joy, then move on to…

Step 3. Cross Something Off Your Bucket List

I don’t actually have a bucket list, as such. I also think it’s a horribly crude way of naming the repository of hope for what a person can achieve in their numbered days. That said, you know what I’m referring to, and written down or not, we all have certain things we hope to do before we shuffle off this mortal coil, so to speak.

After John and I left his mother and step-father, we turned south to visit with my parents, who brought us back out to the coast on Sunday to enjoy some rather questionable weather in Camden. We drove up Mount Battie, climbed the tower, threw crackers at each other, picked the leftover crackers up, hassled the park attendant, and generally made nuisances of ourselves while we waited to find out if we would be able to enjoy the main reason we had made the trek out to the coast: sailing on the Lazy Jack II.

I have wanted to learn to sail, or at least to experience sailing in some small capacity to find out if I have the stomach for it, since I read and loved Moby Dick in high school. I didn’t learn any great truths about boats or human nature on our two-hour tour, but I did get to feel the exciting tilt of a boat under sail and the wind whipping in my face. And best of all, I got to hoist the mainsail.

Oh yes, my friends. The only thing that could have made that moment better was if a younger Kevin Kline had popped out of the hold and started climbing the rigging and singing….

All the same, it was a fulfilling moment.

And there you have it, class. To lift up your spirit in three steps, simply take the scenic route, remember your childhood (the good bits), and do something new that you’d like to do before you die. Go, now. Do it. Shut down your browser this instant and do what you need to be able to step into the street without knocking people’s hat from their heads. You can thank me later, after you haveĀ  found the joy your soul is longing for.

What the heck are you still reading for? Didn’t I tell you to get going?