Moments of Pure Joy

The July Project: Day 24

Once in a while, everything comes together to create the perfect walk. There was an afternoon in Los Angeles in January of last year. I’d spent the day in a conference listening to brilliant people talk about their hopes for the future of human progress. I was high on contagious optimism and altruism. One of my new friends offered to show me the way to Griffith Park. I followed her through rush-hour traffic up into the hills, then she showed me where to park and where the running trail started. As I walked and jogged, the sun went down over the hills on one side and the San Gabriel Mountains faded to deep purple on the other. James Taylor sang “That’s Why I’m Here” on my iPod. I break into a grin from ear to ear / and suddenly it’s perfectly clear. It was an ecstatic moment. I’m sure that my feet never touched the ground.

Dappled sunlight through lacy spring leaves

And I recall an early spring day at Memorial Park in some recent year. Dappled sunlight was coming through the deciduous trees, just beginning to fill in with tender yellow-green leaves. The breeze was warm, and I knew it would only be a few weeks until it was too hot to walk at midday. But on this day, the sun felt great on my pasty-white skin. The soundtrack: Indigo Girls, “The Wood Song.” No one gets to miss the storm of what will be / just holding on for the ride. And for a moment, maybe 30 seconds, everything seemed to make complete and perfect sense. Friends I’d made, and lost, the ebb and flow of my career and my love life, the passage of time, the inevitability of change—I understood it all. And then I guess the sun went behind a cloud, and I was back to trudging along on sore feet.

But these moments and a few others are always with me. They remind me that the reward for hard work comes in many forms. There’s the delight of buying the next smaller size of clothing, the knowledge that I’m steadily improving my health, and once in a while, moments of ecstatic happiness.

In writing and exercise, sometimes there are moments of pure, unadulterated joy, and no amount of struggle seems too much to endure.

But on the other hand…

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