I am an Olympi-holic. Not that I've seen much of the 2014 Winter Olympics, but I grab bits and pieces here and there when I can. I love the Olympics despite the uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach when I think about the billions of dollars that make them happen. I know in my heart that the money could be better spent - getting babies out of Syria, maybe, which also makes me sick to contemplate. But I cannot think of any other event that brings the world together joyously the way the Olympics do.
Tales of inspiration abound. You've heard them - a coach loaning a ski during a race, athletes hugging brothers and sisters on the sidelines, folks stepping aside so others can compete…there are the heartache stories too - I just heard that Evgeni Plushenko dropped out of the men's figure skating competition due to injury. He is magnificent to watch, and I was looking forward to his performances. I suppose this may have been his last kick at the can. That's gotta hurt. I know I'm a sensitive writer with a touch of the romantic in me, so every Olympic story pretty much makes me weepy. I see the people behind the pain, the triumphs, the joys. The drive and determination these athletes must have to get them to the top of their game - how can I not be humbled by that? You can bet each and every one of them has had his / her share of aches, pains, defeats, personal challenges, and maybe even tragedies…yet there they are, still fighting the good ole fight.
Beyond that, as an armchair participant (Okay, a futon participant), I am utterly entranced by what I am seeing on the screen. CBC's super slo-mo is adding an entire new dimension to the telling of each athlete's story as they slip and slide and fly through the air on nothing but thin boards and sheer determination. Exhilarating? You bet! I want to jump up and scream and cheer! There's something about the sheer thrill of watching these folks excel at their given sports / passions that just brings me unfettered joy.
I've realized that joy is ours to claim. The Olympics brings it out in me because, despite the threats and the missed medals and the cost, what we are privileged to be watching is as close as we are gonna get to perfection. Is perfection a worthy pursuit? I dunno…I suppose one can get too caught up in such a quest. Alex Colville, the Nova Scotia painter, was reported to have said that his work is never finished. It looks perfect to me, but the artist has his own way of viewing his work. I get that, because I have read and re-read my own books dozens of times and still I find things I would like to change - a sentence here, a phrase there, a description wherever. Will I ever reach perfection? Nah. Can't say that I aspire to perfection. But I do aspire to the joy inherent in being the best that I can be, as a writer and as a person. I suppose it's different with everyone, and of course Olympic athletes are at the top of their game. But I have great joy and respect for them as people who have worked incredibly hard not only to achieve their goals, but to strive to make their performance in their chosen sport their version of a Colville painting.
Olympic athletes and painters like Colville are obviously the extreme - but the thing is, there are so many levels of joy and simple moments of perfection for us to celebrate. I had the greatest pleasure of a day off last Sunday - between all my activities and work responsibilities, a true day off seems rare! Steve asked me what I wanted to do so I chose a walk. We drove out to Cavendish, PEI and landed at the woodsy home (Ok, so not her real home, but a contrived homestead that exudes cozy) of Lucy Maud Montgomery's fictional Anne of Green Gables. Now, as an Islander, I usually avoid all things Anne (I heard that! A collective gasp!) BUT I LOVE all things Lucy Maud Montgomery. (Sorry for confusing you - I do know that the two are in fact one and the same on some level, and I am an Anne fan, but we do hear a lot about her here on little ole PEI, and LM Montgomery is MORE than just Anne of Green Gables). Anyways, I digress, Steve and I parked in the snow-covered lot designed for, you know, buggies and sleighs, and we traipsed up and over the mounds of winter and into the lovely courtyard betwixt and between Green Gables itself and its cozy barns and outbuildings. Then - how could we resist - we trod off into Lover's Lane, stepping carefully in the imprints of an unknown man and his dog, and we waded happily into the woods.
Joy doesn't begin to describe what I found there. Yes, a sweet forestry brush on the lips from my man, but also a bubbling brook whose trickling water twinkled in my ears, like that bell from the old film It's A Wonderful Life. I expect many angels got their wings while I was standing there just listening while such sweet music filled my ears. I let my gaze drift everywhere as I stood on the little bridge overtop the brook - what did I see? Hear? My senses were in overdrive. There were chickadees playing on the bare branches that day, leaping and diving and laughing with glee, I know it. How could they not be blissfully happy in such a place? Lying silently here and there over the pristine icy brook were the most intricate beautifully crafted webs of silken snow and ice, like spidery crystals that glistened with sunshine and promise. Even now I find it hard to breathe as I recall such perfection. I was in awe at the sheer beauty of the place and of the moment. Lately there just seems to be so much to be thankful for in the simple admiration of, well, everything!
I come back to earth real quick when I hear stories about Syria, though. Starvation, a new old childhood epidemic - polio - a city that looks like Stalingrad at the end of World War Two, just a heap of rubble where buildings that stood sentinel two years ago no longer exist…families tunnelling from basement to basement because they are being bombarded every second of every day…and this is 2014! Let me ask you this? Why is this still happening? Why? I don't get it. And yeah, imagine what we could do with the money spent on the Olympics when it comes to feeding starving people. Imagine.
Sometimes it's too much for my sentimental hopeless romantic mind to grasp. The divide between these two is so great. Yet in some weird way maybe that's why we need the Olympics - okay, maybe a pared down version. Maybe it's why we need to hear the stories of coaches lending skis and people reaching their dreams. I dunno. But what I do know is this - we are on this earth once. Let us find the moments that bring us joy and celebrate those. Watching an elite athlete fly through the air with the greatest of ease? Standing in the heart of a peaceful forest on a snowy winter's day with the gentle bubbling of a brook and dancing chickadees for company? Admiring the cadence of a song or the perfect harmony in an indie tune? Relishing in the glory of a superbly crafted Lucy Maud Montgomery sentence? Being cradled by a farmyard in a homestead that once teemed with life - chickens, horses, cousins, laughter, garden fresh veggies and fresh cream from cows? Grandparents that are only now with us in spirit?
There is so much to be thankful for. But let us remember to be thankful. To recognize joy when we see it. To celebrate joy, in whatever way it comes to us.
And in the meantime, let's pray for peace in Syria. When it comes to that war torn country, I am simply at a loss. All I have to give those people is prayer. I send them hope. I send YOU hope if you are having a hard day.
I send you joy.