I sat once, at an Easter Egg hunt, and watched. It's one of my favorite things to do, to sit and study others when they feel beyond notice. On that day, I watched a little girl, maybe 4 or 5 years old, walking through the grass, picking up plastic eggs.
Afterward, her mother took her basket and opened all of the eggs and dumped the candies hidden inside into a bag, presumably to save for later. To parcel out in moments of goodness and pleasant nature or necessitated bribery, perhaps. While her mother talked with a friend, the girl began to go through her basket of plastic shells, tiny fingers prying open each one only to find it hollow.
I watched her for a long while, waiting for the meltdown, the rage at finding nothing where something so delicious had been promised. She continued about her candy-less efforts, prying and fumbling, smiling and hoping. Each time, I braced for reality, for sadness, for this sweet-cheeked baby to realize her search was as empty as those eggs. But she didn't stop. Reality never appeared. She just kept on, seeking and not finding, completely undeterred.
A few weeks ago, I opened an email with only one line:
"Where have you been?"
It was from someone that I only vaguely know, and I wasn't sure of the intent behind it; we had no plans to meet or talk, no appointments to keep. My response was that I was here, that I was working, that I was busy, that I was fine. And I was. I was all of that. The next day was another email:
"I don't believe you. Show yourself."
Out of context, these messages seem strange, possibly even a little overbearing at best and threatening at worst. But I knew the context. The context was here.
I haven't been here in a long while. Not since August. I couldn't tell you why. I don't really know why. It's not as though I ran out of things to say. Maybe I ran out of energy most days. Maybe I ran out of patience with the blank screen. Perhaps I had more to do. I don't know.
So I did some sorting within my own jumbled brain, searching for the reason behind my vanishing act. Why did I stop doing something that brings me such challenge, such release, such joy? I thought for days on end without coming to a logical conclusion, and then in a dream, there I was, at an Easter egg hunt, watching a little girl crack open egg after empty egg, waiting, hoping that in at least one, she would find something sweet as a reward for her search.
And as she dug deep into her basket, her eyes big, her smile wide and pure as she whispered, "A yellow! I like the yellow best!" And she hugged it tightly to her chest. And she went about her business of fumbling and prying and hoping.
I woke up with that dream-memory on my heart, pushing it around in my jumbled brain until it clicked into place.
How do we find joy?
As the prize inside the egg?
The act of the hunt?
Do we throw away each egg we find, certain it's already rotted or empty?
Or do we relish the moment we stumble upon it, hidden and waiting for our notice?
Or in the excitement of the split second as we feel the seam give way?