to Out on a Limb,
a monthly newsletter from Martha Clark Scala. This free e-zine
is meant to invite and inspire you to maximize the joy in
A Step Toward Joy
“The man who for the first time picks a small flower so that
he can have it near him while he works
has taken a step toward joy in his life.”
~ Herman Hesse
The first time I read this quote, I was transported to my parents’ place after I left home for college and beyond. In anticipation of my arrival for a visit, my Dad picked blooming flowers (such as daffodils, tulips, or my absolute favorite, fragrant gardenias) and placed them in a vase by my bedside, or he made sure there was a blooming plant in my room. Friends of mine who visited while I was staying at my parents’ house remember the same thing. One pal who lived nearby remembers taking home an African Violet cultivated by Dad on a couple of occasions. My Dad’s step toward joy was via his indoor and outdoor gardens, and he loved to share the fruits of his labors.
Even now, several years after my Mom’s death, I have friends who talk about my Mom’s inimitable strawberry-rhubarb pie and how they wish they could enjoy a generous slice right now. One of my Mom’s steps toward joy was by baking something sweet to relish after a yummy dinner. Another of her steps was actually an intrepid saunter into the ocean for an invigorating swim.
You could hear my brother Nick’s step toward joy the moment his car turned into the driveway. The music he played, at full blast, crossed all genres, and he also made sweet music with a melliferous voice. When I think of all the recording artists he introduced me to, I feel both joyful and extremely grateful. Music is synonymous with richness, if you ask me.
Sister Margo’s step toward joy was much quieter. A voracious reader, she found joy and plenty of escape in books. On each visit home, Margo arrived with a book or three that she wanted to share with us. When she converted to reading books with her Kindle, she would pull out her list of titles that she had read on her device, and make recommendations. She also took almost every suggestion I offered her and added it to her voluminous queue. We got such joy out of raving over books we both loved such as Following Atticus, by Tom Ryan, Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese, or just about any title by Ann Patchett.
How do you step toward joy? Herman Hesse’s quote got me thinking about this and I realized that my steps toward joy are deeply influenced by what my family did. I, too, garden, bake, swim in salt water not often enough, always appreciate a variety of music, and love to read. Is your step toward joy a pass-down from a family member, too? Or do you have something in your repertoire that is uniquely yours? If nothing comes to mind, please do not make yourself wrong for this. Allow yourself to, in the words of Rainer Maria Rilke, love the question itself: how might I step toward joy?
Why I Collage
You may have noted in recent issues of Out on a Limb that one of my unique steps toward joy is through collage. I cannot think of an occasion when work on a collage has not raised my joy meter. As you continue to ask how you might step toward joy, think about activities (or stillness) where you lose track of time, or that you just cannot wait to get back to again.
This collage was made with my father very much on my mind. Oh, how he loved to give visitors a tour of his garden, or share fresh green beans or tomatoes! What will your garden of colorful gifts contain?
Your July 2014 Prompts for Joy
Click here if you think you have too much to juggle to take a step toward joy.
Click here if you want to be inspired by two women who took flight toward joy.
Many thanks to Karen Smith and Cassie Murray for this month’s offerings!
Joy-Gram for July 2014
Take a step toward joy. Even if it is just a baby step. What do you need near you while you work, as Herman Hesse put it?
My Dad grew many different varieties of hibiscus as it was my Mom’s favorite flowering plant. A scene from their living room. Photo by Geoffrey Clark.
By no means
do I have joy “figured out.” Please do not assume
that I do! I write Out On a Limb as much as a meditation for
myself in the ongoing pursuit of joy, as for you. I think this
pursuit is a lifelong journey and that the full experience
of joy is, at best, episodic. May we all have more episodes!
Martha Clark Scala, MFT · 721 Colorado Ave., Suite 201, Palo Alto, CA 94303 ·