Helen Keller once said, “Joy is the holy fire that keeps our purpose warm and our intelligence aglow.

My mind had felt dulled. The pressures of life during a global pandemic had laid their weight upon my person. I’m a mom of six kids. The shifts that arrived were daunting. They ranged from mitigating the disappointment of an acutely social 11 year old graduating fifth grade virtually versus surrounded by friends and teachers, to watching adult children be laid off of work, to another adult child going to work everyday at a local grocery store.

I was used to some of my own work being online. As a yoga therapist with offices in two locations, I had clients who weren’t close to either whom I had never met but the world of online spaces. Yet, as the days and weeks passed I missed the essence of physical human interactions.

It was the dulling of my senses that the lingering presence of unknown had wrought. A drab grayness zapped creativity and strength. I felt a weariness had anchored into the very marrow of my frame. I know the spaces of how to bring movement, breath, and meditation to my being, I leaned into the respite they granted while being aware that thoughts lingered towards children and older relatives.

As July 4th rolled around, the complexities of liberty and national events added to my sense of being a solemness. Having sent my younger children to their grandparents for the Summer, the house was especially quiet. Layer upon layer was beginning to add up, something was needed but what that was I didn’t yet know.

Road trips and driving in the car is a favorite pastime for me. It dawned on me that while having lived in Virginia for over 7 years I hadn’t done much exploring. Perhaps the day called for a drive. I searched online for the best drives in Southwest Virginia, locked one into my phone’s GPS and was on the road.

It would be my companion, a two and a half year old Golden Retriever named Basil, that would reignite the “holy fire” of joy. This dog has loved the car ever since he was a pup. The back seat is his space, the glare that crosses his face if the accompanying window isn’t put down fast enough is palpably felt. I didn’t make that mistake. The car started, music on, windows down including Basil’s and we were off to the backroads of the Blue Ridge. I hadn’t ever been. The vistas were gorgeous. It wasn’t their beauty alone that would woo me back to a strength that truly only simple pleasures can grant.

I would catch a glimpse of Basil out of the side rear view mirror that would remind me of deep and true joy. The wind in his face, his mouth opened wide in a grin, he was tangibly full of joy. An open window, the open road, and the bright clear air of the day had landed upon him and he was in his happy space. Joy was contagious as I watched him, a smile crossed my face.

It wouldn’t just be for the remainder of the drive. In the days and weeks that have passed, I have returned to the image of him in that happy place, closed my own eyes, taken a deeper breath, and released myself into the strength that comes from the simple pleasures of life.

The unknowns of the times continue to come, but thanks to Basil and the backroads I will recall the pleasure I received from witnessing his joy, take a deeper breath, and feel its strength.