I carry around a small Moleskine notebook. It’s the type with a built-in ribbon bookmark and elastic band, which means it’s classy, as opposed to a spiral-bound notebook, which makes people think you’re a journalist or a conspiracy theorist, which may be redundant. I love my Moleskine notebook and try not to think about all the little moles who sacrificed their lives for my selfish note-taking pleasure.
I use my notebook to jot down my thoughts and observations. Sometimes they might be brainstorms that pop in my head, like an idea for a TV show called “Good Cop/Drunk Cop.” When I was having difficulty waking my children for school one morning, I wrote “It takes a village to rouse a child.” Sometimes they’re more introspective. For example, when I was going away for the weekend, I asked myself, should a grown man be using reuseable grocery bags as luggage? And the fact that they’re at least reuseable and not plastic grocery bags, that should count as some evidence of maturity, shouldn’t it?
I’ve also used this notebook to capture moments in my life that I don’t want to forget, and, considering my memory, that’s highly likely.
Flipping to September 2012 brings me back to the day I was standing in my kitchen, and I looked out the front window to see Abby, who was 11 at the time, dancing ballet alone on the sidewalk in the middle of the afternoon. My notebook reminds me that I laughed out loud in my kitchen at Abby’s pure, uninhibited joy.
I can go back two years in my notebook to another dreary March day when we were driving home from a friend’s house in Sherbrooke. Katie and James were in the back seat holding a bowl of grapes that the friend had passed to them on our way out. “Some of them are a bit ugly,” she had warned, and she was right. My kids took the grapes, politely, even though they didn’t want them. Later, in the car, James asked, “Can we throw them out the window?” Well, they were biodegradable, much like your better reuseable grocery bags, so I said “Sure.”
And so, whizzing down the highway, James and Katie took turns pinging grapes, one at a time, out the window, laughing madly as they watched them zip away and bounce crazily on the road.
I felt such pleasure watching my teenage children do this, and not just because I’m not fond of grapes. It was because they were so happy doing something so simple and so silly.
Joy comes in unexpected moments. We tend to go through life at a cruising altitude of annoyance. We’re in the middle of a provincial election campaign here in Quebec – this great achievement of democracy – and everyone seems so angry about it. People are even angry at this long winter, as if it were someone’s fault.
It’s important to find the moments of joy in the midst of the gloom. I noticed Saturday, as we waited for another storm, the weather warning on the Environment Canada website concluded with this: “Skiers will appreciate this new snow that will give them hours of fun on the slopes.” Now that’s seeing the glass half full… of snow.
I try to capture these moments of joy in my notebook – the joy I feel when the piano solo kicks in halfway through “Uncertain Smile” by The The.
Or the time Abby asked her oldest sister Emily what card game she was playing. “Solitaire,” said Em. “How do you play?” asked Abby. “Alone,” said Em.
Or the bladder-emptying laugh of my wife as she plummeted down a water slide at an indoor water park, offsetting the unsettling fact that we live in a world that actually has indoor water parks.
Like memory, there is no index to my Moleskine notebook. Instead, I stumble across these items as I flip through. I relive the joy, and they remind me how fast life goes by. They also remind me that I really need to find a situation where I eat a lot of pickles just so I can say I have brine damage.
Yeah… I wrote that down.
A version of this originally aired on CBC Radio “Breakaway.” Follow the link to hear the original audio version.
He who binds to himself a joy
Does the wingèd life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise.