Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Joy passes. Joy rises in different forms but, like rage, profound sadness, and terror, it passes.

There was the time as a ten year old I wandered from the group on a weeklong field trip. We had stopped at the end point in the road of the Haast Pass. The diaspora of green unfurled its rain forest fronds and drew me to its breast. I fell into it clambering over the river worn smooth rocks of the pristine water feeling its song inside every cell of my being.

Then there was the time when I was 17. Heather and Cheryl and I were hitchhiking as usual, up through the North Island after our summer raspberry-picking gig. We had decided for some reason to head from Wellington around the east coast instead of straight up through the middle. Traffic was sparse. Long empty stretches of road wound up through tree-clad mountains. Forests of pine pricked the cloudless blue skies. An ancient Holden Ute patch-worked in the colors of its past picked us up. There was not enough room in the cab for all of us. I sat in the back open to the clear blue sky that carried wafts of pine scent and the ocean to me. Bouncing around among rusty tools and discolored tarps in the back, I felt completely free and embraced by the world at the same time, held in place with an unshakable love.

And then there was red matched with my determination to have it on the walls of my new home. As the color dripped into the deep base I expressed concern that it did not look at all like the red that I had so carefully chosen from among more than a dozen possibles over the course of two months. The young lady assured me that it was most certainly “Red Obsession.” It was expensive paint even with my professional discount. As I opened the can the next morning, the brightness of it halted my breath. It dribbled miserably over the nondescript beige, catching onto nothing until it fell in great blobs over the white trim. Panic and despair followed the roller as I stubbornly but carefully applied the paint. It set in different hues and intensities, looking more and more like the fruit punch pink my daughter had forbidden me to use.

“Holy shit that’s red”

I attempted to avoid looking into the open 25 by 18 foot room. It meant having my eyes trapped by the red nail polish on my recently pedicured toes. The room looked like the slaughterhouse from a bad nightmare.

I persisted. Completed the first coat and started the second before my body mounted an irresistible protest. Rumpled blankets with wiggles and squiggles of red greeted me the next morning. I completed the second coat with new tools. I set the off white rocker and espresso bookshelf from Big Lots in one corner by the window. It didn’t look so bad. In fact, it looked a lot like I’d hoped. As long as I didn’t look from the nighttime dark through the drapeless windows into the well-lit brightness of the red, it looked pretty damn good. It just might be what I had dreamed of and stepped toward so slowly over many years.

Joy passes. But first, it has to rise and with inscrutable love, unscrew the hinges of the heart.

Photo of fern by Roger Sonneland

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