The Sheer Joy of It

I occasionally get a sensation I refer to as “the joy bubble.” It’s a feeling of intense rising pressure from deep inside created by elation and excitement that seem to want to burst out all over. 

No, this is not a digestive problem.

This also isn’t exactly happiness, which I feel a fair amount of the time because I’m a Sally Sunshine optimist. It feels both deeper and more significant.

I have distinct memories of some of the things that have created this sensation. They’re pretty simple, really. A few examples (and in making the list I realized every single time I feel this it has to do with living intensely in the moment of an actual experience--never with acquiring some kind of possession):
  • Walking along the sidewalk at Washington State University during one of my first years of college there, kicking through piles of gorgeous golden/orange/red/russet/brown fall leaves and looking up through more of that vivid color at a clear blue autumn sky.
  • Learning to slalom waterski—at last—rising up behind my oldest brother’s speedboat on one ski and walking on water.
  • Listening to my daughters sing (they have gorgeous voices).
  • Going for a walk with my sweetheart, holding hands and striding out along the sidewalk walking in step with each other on a balmy evening or a crisp morning.
  • And most recently, at Spokane Summer Parkways.

Wednesday night I attended a late-afternoon event, then booked home in my tangerine silk dress and pumps to change into (gasp!) bike clothes for Parkways.

As I left my house and started riding up Rockwood Boulevard toward the event I encountered a man and a woman on bikes speeding downhill. They smiled, waved, and called out “Hi!” I reciprocated and pedaled onward, smiling to myself and thinking, “They must have just come from Parkways.”

Not half a block later another man swooped around the corner from Upper Terrace Road to drop onto Rockwood. He too called out, waved, and smiled.

Any two riders on bikes encountering each other on the streets around here are apt to give a brief nod or a lift of the hand to acknowledge the two-wheeled fellowship. But the extra conviviality and connection—the smile, the comment, and two encounters so close together—felt above and beyond the norm of what I encounter in my everyday riding.

I made it up the hill to Parkways and there encountered so much more of the same. Smiling, waving, talking to total strangers on one of the first truly warm summer evenings we've had, the day after Solstice so the light lingered. 

People filled the streets with happiness. Parents and grandparents pushing strollers, a mom on inline skates next to her daughter on a tiny push bike, folks of all ages and sizes on bikes of all types, a young couple walking their new adoptee from the shelter, families lined up in a semicircle of lawn chairs on their front lawns chatting, smiling, and waving at the passers-by.

I pedaled slowly around the parks, stopped to chat with people I know and with ones I don't know, told a friend who's running for the school board that I want her yard sign, met up with my sweetheart, and went by The Scoop for ice cream before riding home together through the warm summer evening.


  1. I get this, completely. My feelings of joy also rise up spontaneously, sometimes when I least expect them. A recent one was happening upon a pair of Canada geese guarding their new gosling as it splashed in a puddle, probably for the first time. I stood transfixed, not that far away, and completely lost myself in the moment. It's the simple things!

  2. I am often just so--happy--when out on my bike, especially when I see folks smiling and passing by. This is why Parkways and all the other events we attend (and help put on) are so important to our community. keep smiling!

  3. I had a moment that for me brings together the feeling of the gosling story and the happy biking comment.

    I had a fairly perfect day that just spontaneously came together. Part of it included some time in Riverfront Park staring at a bridge reflected in the Spokane River. I stared because--for just a brief while--I could see the bridge the way an artist must see it, as patches of changing colors I could capture for others to see.

    The different vision went away after a while (I didn't blink for a long time because I was afraid to lose it). I haven't been able to repeat it despite trying every so often.

    Maybe I need another day like that one, which included my first-ever tango lesson, yoga, and a bike ride. Biking must be the magic fairy dust of joy and happiness!


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