Sunday 24 December 2017


“Access to joy is a skill.”
- Chade-Meng Tan
Joy on Demand: The Art of Discovering the Happiness Within
(HarperCollins, 2016)

My husband, Bill Stearman, is an amazing man. One of the many things that I love about him is his ability to find joy in every part of his being and in every moment of his day.

Chade-Meng Tan’s book Joy on Demand is about joy, and it’s also about Bill. And me.

Tan, an engineer by training, is an iconoclast, philanthropist, and Nobel Peace Prize nominee. He also stares at life with the logical mind of a systems analyst and concludes that we risk losing ourselves in despair if we only focus on negativity. He encourages us to practise joy, familiarize our minds with joy, notice life’s “thin slices of joy,” and generally become aware of moment-to-moment joy in our lives.

Which is what Bill does. Those of you who know him will recognize his wondrous response to the question, “How are you?”: “I’m absolutely grand!” Whatever the circumstances he finds himself in – and he has experienced his share of challenges – he wills himself to find the joy in whatever is happening and to build from there. As he says, “We don’t have control over what happens to us, but we do have control over how we respond.”

Yup, he’s pretty much a two-legged joy machine.

I struggle with integrating this philosophy into my own life. My decades-old negativity bias trips me up if I’m not careful. It’s not that I’m a negative person – I am not – but I recognize that my first response to difficult people or circumstances can be pissy and mean-spirited if I don’t keep my mouth shut long enough to let my more generous, life-affirming instincts click in. “Count to 10, Larry,” has been a useful mantra. And, of course, living with Bill has the same effect. Thank goodness.

Photography reinforces this joy bias.  It helps me watch with wonder and respond in awe. The resulting photographs bring me joy. What a powerful combination of influences: my camera and my Bill. Praise be.

I’m posting these thoughts on Christmas Eve day. In our home, the tree is sparkling and the stockings await Santa’s arrival. Tomorrow, the family joins us for a feast. A time to reflect, give thanks, and remember those who are struggling. And to find joy.

A parting quotation that I just heard in the latest Kritsa Tippett On Being podcast. (link) The words belong to Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk who writes about joy and gratitude:

“Joy is the happiness that doesn’t depend on what happens.”

I hope you enjoy these photos, each in its own way a measure of joy in my life. Their joy may not be readily apparent. They were recorded last week in Belleville and Prince Edward County.

With every best wish for the joy you are celebrating at this time of the year.

Victoria Avenue, Belleville

Outlet Bay, Sandbanks Provincial Park

Interior, Abandoned Cabin, Prince Edward County

Lakeshore Lodge, Sandbanks Provincial Park

Sandbanks Provincial Park

Outlet Bay, Sandbanks Provincial Park

Outlet Bay, Sandbanks Provincial Park

Near Lakeshore Lodge, Sandbanks Provincial Park

Canadian Tire Store, Belleville

Reynolds' Brothers Farm, Old Belleville Road/County Road 4, Prince Edward County

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