When my daughter and I were holiday shopping in our favorite local artists’ shop, we chose prints for friends and family made by an artist who pairs quotes with her original woodblock designs. The one I chose for myself, mounted in a cheap frame from Michael’s with a turquoise mat made of day care paper, hangs on the orange wall beside the blue painted kitchen table my daughter and I found at the Davis Flea this fall.

The print shows a bowl of soup, a basket of rolls, a cup of tea or coffee, a vase of flowers..a scene that echoes the one I try to make regular on my kitchen table. This morning there are flowers I bought myself in a vase given to me by a day care family, a collection of vintage red and white flowered cloth napkins given to me by Richard for my fifty first birthday after we split up, a beeswax candle given to me by Jonah from the bee keeper at the holiday market in Harvard Square where he buys me candles for Christmas, resting on one of a set of painted flower plates edged in gold leaf inherited from my tea party loving Grandma, tea in a mug I bought myself from the same artist’s store for Richard’s birthday several years ago, one of a collection I bought for each of us in our then family, my two sons and daughter and Richard, all here then on a regular basis, still my favorite mug, while Ben’s has traveled to live in his apartment in New York and Richard’s sits at the back of the cupboard. The mug is full of pear green tea, also a gift from Jonah from another favorite Harvard Square shop, and nearby is my bowl of leftover day care oatmeal, the bowl is one of three remaining blue and white Japanese bowls I got one Mother’s Day from Eric and the kids, when we were married and ceramics were a Mother’s Day tradition, fourth bowl busted along the way, third one chipped, this one still my favorite bowl to eat from, so it goes.

The print on the wall is a guide I’ve chosen for the year with a quote from Dorothy Day which reads:

“It is not easy always to be joyful, to keep in mind the duty of delight.”

In a year of a big break up, I needed to remember that even Dorothy Day, a Catholic Worker movement activist who made her life’s work feeding and nurturing the poor and writing and advocating for social justice, kept delight as her beacon in the dark.

So, two Mondays ago I went skiing at Killington, rather than work in the lodge on my taxes while my friend skied, as I had considered. It was a gorgeous day. Sixteen inches of fresh powder, Monday, sunshine, a friend who skis much more and much better than I do with discount passes, familiarity with the mountain, experience enough to take me to a local shop for well fitted rentals, and my own middle aged bravery made for a fine, fine day. I skied mostly by myself. My favorite part was two four mile runs through woods, from the top of the mountain to the bottom, where a fifty one year old who has skied only three times in twenty five years could take my time, enjoy the mountain, find my feet on skis again. Thank you, Thank you, universe, for bringing me back to another pleasure from my early life, when I skied with my good friends and sister on local hills in Western New York with the high school ski club and freshman year of college for PE.

Last weekend my daughter and I went to a Valentine’s Dance at the Quaker Meeting House, a fundraiser for MAAPS, the Materials Assistance Advocacy Program which provides clothing and household items free of cost to homeless persons. The band, Opposite People, is one I love, with two band members I know, a generous, warm vibe, and an AfroPunk beat I can’t wait to dance to. I danced with a friend from the Drum Circle, watched the dancers and the band and listened to the music and visited with our Quaker friends with my daughter, ate cookies from my favorite Lakota bakery, and for the final dance, danced with my daughter, a rare pleasure in my life. All in all a fine, fine evening.

Thursday night is Drum Circle. This week we had assigned reading to prepare for our ongoing and now deepening discussions on racism, white supremecy, and racial justice. I was sad going in, found myself in tears as we drummed our way into connection, but before long, the whole group, including me, was drumming, smiling, and feeling the together love. We had an interesting discussion, and reminded ourselves that delight and hard thinking can go hand in hand. Dorothy Day would have been proud.

Many weekend and vacation days this winter I’ve been out in the woods, sometimes on very cold days, sometimes on cross country skiis, in Eastern and Western Mass, a little ways out of the city and close in. Yesterday was one of those days. We parked on the edge of the Fells, walked up the hill into the woods, found a sunny rock, lay back, and talked until our backs got cold and we walked some more, jumped the melted brook, felt spring was in the air. Meanwhile, this morning’s world is white, and I have to stop writing soon to shovel before picking up my daughter at the Wellesley Friends Meeting house where she’s spent the weekend on retreat, Body Love the theme, delight sure to have held high priority.

But before I stop, I need to recall briefly the joys of dancing the last two nights in local ball rooms, the first with a group organized for East Coast Swing, the second a fusion dance, both partner dances, which is new to me, and scary, and fun. Both ballrooms were filled with people who might like a copy of my print, delight in every cell of their bodies moving them around the dance floor, mostly with one partner after another, showing off their moves, smiling, waiting to find the next beat in the next song, and dancing some more. There are rules to partner dancing and in my life of dancing rules haven’t worked so well, but there was a lesson on Friday and a chance to dance with different partners, to learn some steps and their names, followed by three hours of free dancing to watch and try and try again with a partner generous and enthusiastic enough to help me learn. Last night we just watched the lesson, and then we danced and danced and danced, practicing the swing moves and trying other things, watching folks express themselves, have fun, keeping in mind the duty of delight.

Now for shoveling on a bright and sunny day, a job I no longer fear, after years of training myself to find delight in this task I used to dread. Practice, confidence, courage, and support go a long way in transforming life’s drudgery into pleasure. Even in our fifties, maybe especially in our fifties, we can find our way out of misery into mystery, if we allow ourselves the pleasures our younger selves craved and loved.

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