Write the joy as it flies

moleskineI 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.

The title of this post is inspired  by “Eternity” by William Blake. It also inspired the title of the charming comic novel Kiss the Joy As It Flies by Sheree Fitch, who is a peach. 

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.


About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
This entry was posted in Family - whadya gonna do?, It Really Did Happen!, Turn that radio on! and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

43 Responses to Write the joy as it flies

  1. Kay Metviner says:

    Thanks for sharing the little moments of joy you’ve accumulated over the years! I used to find my journals being collections of unpleasant end-of-a-long-day thoughts, but I’ve lately taken to trying to bring some gratitude and good stuff in. We all need to flip through some smiles every once in a while!

    And I don’t think you need a special occasion to eat pickles. For me, the occasional is when wanting a pickle and having pickles on hand coincide.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      I think my actual journalling days are over. Who has time? Or rather, I think the journalling transformed into… this! Do you follow Exile on Pain Street. He occasionally (like today) publishes excerpts from his journals circa 1993 or so. They’re great.

      • Kay Metviner says:

        I’ll have to check that out. And I like what your journaling turned into! I don’t know where we would be if no one had recorded the potential for brine damage.

  2. Brine damage! I like that.
    I also LOVE my Moleskine, to the slightly obsessive point that I won’t write in anything else, for myself at least. I’ll take notes for class in whatever, because I take a lot and Moleskine is expensive, but for anything worth saving, Moleskine is it.
    Thanks for sharing your memories. Also, now I kind of want to try throwing grapes out the window on the highway. Or even off my balcony 🙂

  3. I just want to know whose bladder was emptied at the water park. There are sanitation issues to consider…

    Recently I found this in one of my notebooks: There should be a drink called a Happy Man. Then you could say, “Make me a Happy Man!”

    Thanks for the glimpse into your Moleskine.

  4. Ned's Blog says:

    Really nice piece, Ross. Whimsical but with a good message about taking time to be silly and in the moment (which, as a general rule, goes hand-in-hand). I agree with you there seems to be a growing undertow of anger in people. Blame it on the pressure to multitask, our devices, the economy, our collective worrying about Justin Bieber — whatever it is, we need more silly in life. Thanks for sharing yours.

  5. Paul says:

    Awww, the poor mole 😦 Sigh. Peaceful post Ross. I enjoyed it a lot. I too loved to hear the kids laugh and would go through some fairly complex shenanigans to achieve it. Like,when they were about 7 and 9 and I bought a bunch of coconuts and some twine and tied about 10 coconuts in the maple tree out front of the house. When they came home, I tried to convnce them it wa a coconut tree. Almost worked too. Or the time when they were about 4 and 6 and I used one of the trucks from work to bring two huge pumpkins home at Halloween. I had a friend help and we used the tailgate to lower them down and roll them into the house and put one on each side of the firepace. When they were cleaned, they were big enough that a kid fit in each pumpkin – and I mean all the way in with the lid on. One year I brought home a 14 foot Xmas tree (we had cathederal ceilings) and the kids decorated it using fishing poles to hook on the ornaments. Ha! It was so great to hear them laugh – they’re grown now and moved away. Enjoy while you can.

  6. I used to have a Moleskin but i got tired of shaving that darn single thick hair off it every three days.

  7. Oh, I loved this! You captured the joy and essence so perfectly! My husband used to make fun of my dozens of journals (moleskins et al) until I showed him the joy and memories contained within…all without index or order. Thank you for the wonderful post…it made me smile and grab for my notebooks 🙂

  8. mommamuser says:

    I love this piece. I too often ignore the moments of joy. Thank you reminding me to pay attention.

  9. ksbeth says:

    great post, ross. i have the exact same book and i love to jot all sorts of things in there. i love looking back through it at all of the happenings and thoughts that have flowed from my brain to the page.

  10. El Guapo says:

    Sounds like a good reason to carry that book…

  11. Greg says:

    This is a great idea. It’s important to remember these little moments.
    So many people live life in wait; waiting for the weekend, waiting for the spring, waiting for the holiday, waiting, waiting, waiting so much so that they forget to enjoy the moments that happen every day.

  12. Fabulous! I have similar book (sans moleskin and ribbon) where I jot down random thoughts, ideas for blog posts, funny things the kids have said, quotes I hear and like, and it is lovely to flip through and be reminded of those things. Too easy to forget.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      One of my favourite writers, Nicholson Baker, writes out lines from books that he’s read and liked. It helps not only remember them, he said, but understand and appreciate why they work. I like that idea, but haven’t started doing it.

  13. Why are Moleskins so damn cool and addictive? They just feel right in your hand, don’t they? Ernie Hemingway used one, you know? They’re jim-dandy diaries. Oh…I mean journals. Diaries are for 12-year old girls. And that’s not you and I, right? Where do you keep them? What if they fall into the wrong hands? I carry one to keep track of the plays I’ve seen. Title, date, venue and, sometimes, playwright.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Most of the time mine is in the backpack I shlep to and from work. There’s not much incriminating in mine; my examples were actually fairly indicative, although I’ve made longer entries during travels. Last year, I started writing down the books I’ve read and when. I like keeping track but I don’t think everyone needs to know what I’ve been reading; screw you, Goodreads!

  14. Lynn says:

    What a lovely way to document those simple little things that bring you joy! Great piece Ross!

  15. StrangeWorld says:

    Hi Ross, so glad I came across this blog. Very good read. I look forward to reading more. -Anthony Cortez (Strange World). P.S.: My wife likes it too and she’s a harsh judge…very uncompromising.

  16. Lily says:

    I really like that song. You were the one who introduced it to me so you should feel proud. I also have a moleskine but mine is skinny and lavender and never leaves my bedside table. A lot of thoughts happen while I’m lounging.

  17. pinklightsabre says:

    That there The The songs is one of my favorites; formative years picking corners around poems, college. Thanks for that: lovely piece.

  18. benzeknees says:

    Now, you’ve got me feeling all nostalgic! Aaaaahhh. . .

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