Where do you find joy? Is it in something small, something that catches your eye and suddenly takes your breath away? Or are you searching for something bigger, something more tangible and shiny? Are you reaching for something beyond the stars or do you feel it when you make it through a difficult day?
When was the last time you felt the kind of joy that fills your heart and lifts your spirit? That kind doesn’t come along often, but when it does make sure you grab it! It’s precious and rare.
I have no illusions of becoming rich and famous. My needs are simple: to be happy, to love and be loved, to do good for others and to be as healthy as possible.
Finding joy in my life is the icing on the cake with a big cherry on top.
I recently read an article about a woman who, at midlife, realized the many virtues of moving to Florida. That’s something I realized as a child the first time I saw palm trees. It seemed magical to be surrounded by those fan-shaped leaves with their tall, columnar trunks. Along with the vibrant colors of tropical flowers dotting the landscape I felt like I landed in the Land of Oz.
When I got home I’d dream about lying in the shade of a sprawling palm on an empty beach covered with luminous white sand while sipping a tall glass of freshly squeezed orange juice .
The thought of that dream always brought joy to me.
As luck would have, when I was engaged to my husband my future in-laws purchased a lovely condominium in Florida. I’d been to Florida many times with my family, but now I had the best reason to visit on a regular basis.
It seemed beshert.
I’ve visited countless times over the last three decades and whenever the airplane lands on the runway in West Palm Beach I silently murmur that I’m home again.
I can’t explain it but somehow I feel happier in Florida. Being in a tropical area fills my soul. I’ve spent my whole life in New Jersey; my history is here. But I’m tired of the cold weather, of living in black-and-white days that force me to stay indoors. I’m tired of wearing two pairs of socks and being cold all the time.
Sometimes I feel like my best days are slipping away. When I’m indoors, day after day, I miss the smell of fresh air and taking walks on local trails. It’s not until the first buds of spring begin to sprinkle life back into the earth that I feel whole again.
I recently felt a sense of great joy and I know you won’t believe me because it’s sounds so sappy and ludicrous, but it was when I was in Florida last Thanksgiving. My husband found somewhere new for us to visit.
Green Cay Wetlands Nature Preserve. It was paradise to me.
Green Cay has 100 acres of constructed wetlands with a 1.5 mile elevated boardwalk and dozens of gazebos that gives visitors a front row seat to observing Florida’s wildlife and vegetation.
The park is also a water reclamation facility that naturally filters millions of gallons of water each day.
We’ve seen purple gallinule, black-belly whistling duck, black-crowned night heron, great egret, white ibis, roseate spoonbill, Florida redbelly turtles, marsh rabbits and American alligators.
The flora is also magnificent with sabal and royal palm, live oak, bald cypress and duckweed.
It’s an honor to walk the boardwalk while feeling at one with nature.
This year hasn’t been the kindest to us, so finding Green Cay felt like an answer to a prayer. It felt as if it was meant to be. It’s so restorative, so relaxing, so meditative.
When we returned to Florida in early March we walked Green Cay every morning, savoring each sight and sound. Being there feels so right. I never want to leave.
One of the greatest joys for me is be a quiet observer of the extraordinary blessings surrounding us in nature. I miss Green Cay. It makes me feel lighter. I hope we’ll be able to return soon. And then, somewhere down the road, perhaps we’ll be able to live nearby permanently. Only time will tell.
In the meantime I’ll hold on to the joy I felt to get me through difficult days. I think we all need to hold on to the joy we find in our loved ones, in our work, in our passions, and in our hopes and dreams. Hold joy close to your heart. In the words of Buddha:
Where do you find joy?
NOTE: All photos were taken by the author. They are of Green Cay Wetlands Nature Preserve and The Chester Residence in Florida. All rights reserved.