One of my favorite things about travel is the random fun surprises you come across. The way we are traveling now, we don't do a lot of planning ahead about what exactly we want to do in a particular place. We plan our housesits, of course, and we plan how we will get there and how long we are staying, but so far we tend to take things as they come once we are living somewhere.
When I do plan ahead, I tend to get a bit obsessive about things. If I have a plan and something happens to make my plan go, well, not as planned, I get upset very easily. By learning to let go of that, I have found traveling much more pleasant, and we have come across some things we might not have if I was otherwise obsessed about getting particular things done or going specific places. In Cyprus we just happened to be staying near one of the most fun restaurants on the island, and we got to spend a night eating Greek food and dancing. In Germany a walk around town lead to the discovery of a nearby mini golf place - one of my favorite activities! Heck, even when driving around randomly back home in Iowa we have come across some fun places.
Last week, after lunch at the Nicholaston House, and a prayer walk through the garden, we still had some time to kill before our ride was leaving for the day. While I might have wanted to spend the time just lounging in the conservatory, we have some workout goals that include getting a 2 mile walk in every day, so this was the perfect time to get that in. We walked down the hill and away from the house, with a vague intention of getting to the bay down below. We came across a trail that descended into the woods and looked intriguing.
Just as we reached it, an older man with a walking stick came up out of the woods. We asked him how far it was to the beach from where we were, and he started to give us directions. But then he mentioned something that caught my ear - "stay left on the path and you'll come to the big swing-" he tried to keep talking but I interrupted him. "Excuse me, did you just say there is a big swing?!" "Oh yes, it's hanging from a tree and anyone can use it." "Um, yes please, that's where I want to go." He gave us directions to the swing then off we each went in our separate directions.
Just walking through the woods felt rather magical on this day. The sun was shining and it was the perfect temperature outside. I felt like at any moment we might come across some fairies hiding in the trees. We never found any fairies, but we did find the swing, hanging from a big old tree just off the trail. The old man was right, you couldn't miss it!
I don't know what it is about swings, but I love them. Perhaps it's that nostalgic call back to childhood, when I loved swinging and did so every chance I got - on the set in my backyard, during recess at school, or even in the park well into my teen years. I remember learning how to pump my legs so I could make myself go higher and higher, always trying to get to that point where you are so high in the sky you almost feel like you are going to fall right out of the seat.
One of the games we used to play was probably rather dangerous now that I look back on it with adult eyes. We would get swinging as high as we possibly could, and then at the apex of the swing - jump off! My brother and friends and I used to have contests to see who could swing the highest and then jump the furthest. In hindsight we are probably lucky that no one ever broke any bones during that game. You couldn't pay me to jump off a swing like that today, but the memories still bring a smile to my face.
So of course I was excited to come across this random swing in the woods. It was a simple wooden seat attached to a rope hanging from the tree. I immediately ran to it with childlike abandon. I grabbed the swing and climbed up the small hill to get the best start, then sat down and pushed off. That feeling of the wind in my hair, the sun on my face, and the wild freedom of moving quickly through the air filled me with an almost indescribable joy. The sweet memories of childhood combined with the happiness of this time in my adult life swirled together and created a unique moment, encompassing both past and present.
I likely could have stayed there for hours, swinging to my hearts content and reminiscing about days gone by, but alas we had to return to the house for the next part of our day. But I want to keep that feeling I had on the swing close to my heart. If you've seen the movie Inside Out this is definitely one of those moments that created a little pearl of Joy, and might even be a core memory. It's a small thing - finding a swing in the woods - but the joy it brought was big, and in the end, that's what this journey is all about.
I hope you find time this week for your own moments of joy - maybe seek out something that brought you joy as a child - swinging, playing in the park, perhaps a particular movie or book. If you can, take some time to enjoy whatever it is once again, and experience that feeling when joy from your childhood and joy from this adult life collide - it can be truly magical. If you do, I'd love to hear all about it.