Several hundred kilometres to the south east of home, I drove along a back road in the country early one morning. I was careful as it had rained the night before. A little rain on once dry roads is dangerous. A movement caught my eye. Just a tiny, imperceptible movement. Thinking it was a drop of rain on a puddle of water I stopped. Hoping to catch it in motion, I got my camera ready and was delighted when I zoomed in.
A group of yellow rumped thornbills, aka ‘button bums’ were bathing in the puddle. They were oblivious to the world beyond. They are prolific in this region but incredibly difficult to see in the shrub. To find them in the open and not afraid of my presence was a feeling of sheer joy. Watching them, even more so. They immersed themselves wholeheartedly in the water. Except for one. She leaned in cautiously, legs stiffened and at an angle, hoping for a small dip. Leaning too far, she fell into the water. Once experiencing the pleasure, she joined her group in play.
I’ve had a very focused week of catch up. I’ve also had to reflect on the past and now. As a mother with very young children, work and study, I managed to get it all done, including getting children to extracurricular activities after school. I’m not sure how I did it but a 24 hour day was elastic. I did not see life as weeks, months and years. I lived a day at a time. Although other tasks were completed, my thesis never seemed to finish. I woke to it. I slept by it. I had a phrase written on a Post It sticker and stuck on the computer: “A thesis is written a word at a time”. It helped and guided me. Writing was not difficult. Getting a 100,000 word thesis into a 50,000 word document, was. It consumed me for years, but I found joy in the doing and completion. It was mission accomplished, when it was.
For twenty years, I have somehow been able to create joy in what I do, even when it is work. Making a list of tasks and working through brings satisfaction. I never have a completed ‘to do’ list but I prioritise tasks for the day so I am productive every day. I sleep better with that knowledge. Somehow, the play, the joy, comes from the process of listing. The task itself can be tedious, but the pleasure is in the completion and checking it off the list. Once done, I enjoy my time outdoors with my camera. There is a behavioural science basis to this. It works well for me.
I have passed these behavioural strategies to my children without knowing it. Staying overnight at my daughter’s home, I found a list on her table. A neat list of tasks, crossed off as she completed them. Like the little yellow rumped thornbill she is now fully immersed.
Today, I have experienced joy by reflecting on the meaning of this, in my world. May you, too, experience joy in your world.
Until next time,
a dawn bird