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Finding Joy In Little Things

I am blessed to live on Long Island where we have a unique road system of parkways built in the 50’s. These parkways were designed for a leisurely Sunday afternoon drive to one of the many State Parks on Long Island. There are no trucks allowed on the parkways and until recently even pick-up trucks were not allowed if they had commercial plates.

Over the years what was designed for leisure became an essential network of roads used daily by commuters. Speed limits were increased to 55 MPH from 45.

Cloverleafs were added after the fact making for some heart stopping merges and decelerations on very short almost non-existent ramps some with 15 MPH speed limits to negotiate the very tight turns. I am always grateful for the friendly wave of another motorist letting me merge.

Grateful too, for the road repair crew that fills the tire eating potholes. I wonder how many victims they claimed before they were filled. While the inevitable delays cause consternation for many they offer an opportunity to observe some of the little things along the way.

If giving a choice I will always choose the parkway vs the Long Island Expressway with it’s many trucks and tractor trailers and often huge traffic jams. Not that the parkway is immune from traffic somehow it seems less stressful as it is a totally different environment. While the scenic route may not save me a lot of time, it always makes the journey more pleasant. I arrive at my destination in a far better mood having taken the road less traveled.

These picturesque winding roads with their stone bridges are lined with beautiful trees and shrubs. The parade of spring colors from the forsythia, apple and cherry trees brings me such delight as I drive from place to place.

This week I noticed that the grass along the parkway was greening up after the long winters nap. That was not the only thing that was awakening. The grass was sporting its usual bumper crop of bright yellow Dandelions.

Before you start a rant calling them weeds that must be destroyed, think about this. Dandelions are one of the first flowers of spring. They are also one of the few flowers that have both nectar and pollen essential for the bees early in the season.

I giggle as I sometimes see old men on the side of the road picking the yellow flowers to make Dandelion wine. My own father was one of those men during his winemaking days. Even my father-in-law had done the same thing, if only one time. I can remember the sweet taste of the wine and wonder if the tradition will continue as more and more people are speeding by and not taking the time to even see or appreciate the simple Dandelion.

It seems that one moment there is a sea of yellow and the next moment the flowers have turned into magical puff balls dispersing the seeds to dance on the spring breeze for the next crop of Dandelions. How many of us have made wishes before blowing a Dandelion puff into the wind.

I marvel at how nature has adapted. The tall curved light poles have become vantage points for an increasing number of Red Tail Hawks. They wait and the watch for their next meal to venture out on the grass. Swooping down on an unwitting chipmunk, mouse, or rabbit I marvel at their agility as their wings and tail maneuver with grace and elegance.

The spring rain brings the worms to the surface as Robins gleefully pull them out of the ground and bring them to their hidden nests for their new hatchlings.

The parkway brings me past a pond filled with Canadian Geese or even a pair of snow- white swans. Both species mate for life. I am sad to see a lone sentry standing watch and wonder what happened to his or her mate.

I smile as I catch a glimpse of the new brood of fuzzy yellow babies. I worry that they seem too close to the road then feel relief when mama and papa herd them back to the safely of the pond and the bushes surrounding it.

The swans sit on their messy nest in the middle of the pond awaiting the hatching of their “ugly ducklings” reminding me of the much-loved children’s storybook.

I’ve seen rabbits, woodchucks, wild turkeys, and deer.

The most amazing thing I ever saw was an albino deer standing proudly on an embankment. From a distance I thought it was a goat and was confused as to why a goat would be on a roadside on Long Island. It was only as I got closer that I saw it was a stately buck with a beautiful eight point rack of antlers.

If you drive on the Ocean Parkway or out by Robert Moses State Park you will see plenty of deer. I once saw spotted triplet fawns with their mom as they came out to feed at dusk. I wonder where they were hiding during the day in the low growing beach pines and shrubs.

I often would take the Ocean Parkway to bypass traffic when coming home from Long Beach. In the off season you could drive its entire length without seeing another car. A single parking lot would be open and sometimes I would stop to watch the sunset basking in the pink and gold of a winter sky. Weather permitting, I would open the windows and sun-roof so I could smell the ocean and hear its roar as the waves crashed on the white sand.

This past Sunday I took a drive and was happy to see the pairs of Osprey were already sitting on eggs in their lofty nests built on man made towers. I also saw that the bluebird nesting boxes were once again being placed inviting our state bird to once again be abundant.

Seagulls danced in the wind and cried out with joy. White caps driven by the wind filled the Great South Bay. It was not a great day for boating and I did not see even one sailor brave enough to venture out into the cold and wind of the day.

I am so grateful that I see the little things around me.

What little things do you see?

· Things that make you smile.

· Things that can take your breath away.

· Things that remind you to slow down.

· Things that can reduce the stress in your life.

Or are you so busy, moving so quickly that you don’t take the time to see the magic that surrounds you in a million little things.

Finding joy in the little things makes life worth living. Big things happen infrequently. Our days can be filled with so many things to do, setbacks, and things going wrong that we miss the little things around us that go right.

Take a moment, breathe deeply, and step back from the chaos and focus on something small and beautiful in your day. Do this every day. Do this multiple times a day and your outlook on life can totally change.

· Sing along to your favorite music. Sing loudly, sing badly, just sing and it will fill your heart.

· Laugh at ourselves when things go wrong or when they go right. We seem to have lost our sense of humor and I want it back.

· Find something to be grateful for in every task, encounter, setback, and success and say Thank You out loud.

· Make and recall memories using all of your senses. See it happening, listen and truly hear the words, stop and smell the roses, feel the warm sand between your toes as you walk on the beach, and taste the foods of your youth, ethnicity, and holiday traditions.

· Bask in the glow of a beautiful full moon. Marvel at its brightness. Know that it is there for you to see and appreciate.

Just some of the little things in which you can find your joy.

These little things are the daily reminder that you are alive.

Live each day and take the time to notice the little things in your life…

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