Joy is a longing,
a passageway with the white wingbeat of swans overhead,
and the silent current of a spring river beneath.
You cannot live in water or air, and yet they push and lift you into realms of beauty and desire,
so much the more powerful for their being out of reach.
Joy is this pulling of the soul right out of the body and onto the swan’s back,
a dreamscape more alive than your waking vision.
It is forever captured in your mind’s eye,
a trumpet call from a far country,
which even now sets your feet dancing on the rippled water,
dazzled by the bright sun toward which you run.
Joy is the elemental force you cannot contain,
yet which defines your every movement,
now from beneath, now from above,
the wave that buoys,
the wind that breathes,
the holy, humbling wild of spring unleashed.
This poetic reflection draws on C.S. Lewis’s understanding of joy as desire, and is formed by memories of canoeing down the Salt River with my father one spring. In an afternoon I will never forget, we set up a tarp sail and the wind carried us downstream toward hundreds of white tundra swans that had returned to the river. As we neared, they rose up by the dozens and dozens, and flew overhead to resettle behind us. We were surrounded. I look back on that day as a gift of beatific vision.