The Landscape of Joy


I just read a couple of internet articles about Olive Riley, the world’s oldest internet blogger. She is 107 and will be 108 on Saturday. She is quite a lady. Her blog is entitled “The Life of Riley.”  In her first post from February 16, 2007 she recounts her trip to Brisbane for Christmas from her Nursing home North of Sydney Australia where she lives. It is a hoot. She recalls time in the pool with her grandchildren and how each day on her visit she enjoyed a good  Shandies (Beer and ginger ale). If you visit the page – go to the archives to February and give it a read. aeogae_346312_1[586516]


Olive’s longevity in life is a great gift if you have the attitude that she does. She excudes JOY. I look at her and think, my gosh, many of us who are much younger are a whole lot less joyful.  Abe Lincoln said that “in the end it is it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” Olive is a living witness to this. She is so clearly full of life and vigour. And by the sounds of things her life was not all easy. She lived through a lot, not the least of which was two World Wars, a great depression, cheating husbands and single parenthood – yet she has captured JOY!


Joy is so very important. Jean Vanier The founder of L’Arche (a home for persons with profound mental disabilities) wrote of, taking a person with Down’s Syndrome to a wide beach in France, asked him to draw a picture of joy in the sand.  This person responded, "The beach is not big enough." Olive strikes me as a person with that same attitude. We all need to search within ourselves to find that same place of gratitude and JOY! We need to get to a spiritual landscape in ourselves that is dotted with gratitude and is warmed with the sunshine of JOY.


Now I know that many will counter that this sounds good in theory but with life being what it is some days it is not always very easy to find joy when we are in the midst of great challenge or turmoil. I remember when I was in seminary there was a united Church clergy person who engaged in a debate with me one day about the nature of life (Philosophical Theology – Thank God that’s over). I expressed my feelings that I could not approach life through a “veil of tears.” That overall, I did not think that living was so bad – it has its awful moments but on the whole I enJOY life.  At that moment she looked up at me (or perhaps down at me if I think about it) and said, “Oh dear – you too young yet to have known what real pain and suffering is all about.”  WOW – did she know me? Had she followed me on my journey? Are 24 year olds to young to know pain, how about 25 year olds or 6 year olds?  I assured her that I as well as the next person knew something of pain and of sorrow. But how do we deal with that pain and suffering and sorrow?


Those of us who have been reading Ed Smith’s book have been learning one answer to that very important question. As a quadriplegic Ed has reason to be less than JOYful.Yet even in the most undignified of realities Ed finds JOY and humour.  In his biographical statement that he sent me here is what Ed Has to say about retirement –  

“Retirement suited me admirably until one day two and a half years into that state of bliss (1998) our car parted company with the highway, courtesy of black ice, and ended up out in some trees on its roof. I ended up with a broken neck and quadriplegia.  Quadriplegia should not be equated in any way with a state of bliss. That was more than seven years ago and I still can’t walk. “

But that is not the end. No – in fact the very end of his Biography Ed writes,

“Living with quadriplegia is no fun but it isn’t the end of the world. Laughing at it helps.” 

[As an aside – we resume our book group tonight at the church at 7:30 PM please plan to join us. Also ed will be speaking on Tuesday at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake at 7 PM – Come out hear him speak and meet him at a wine a cheese reception to follow.] 


Kahlil Gibran, who was a poet and I would say mystic who died in the early pasrt of the last century wrote that “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being the more JOY you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?”




Life is, sometimes, the pits (insert other words here if you wish)! Olive Riley knows that. It is true in her life. – Yet she has discovered JOY. Life is, sometimes, the pits! Ed Smith knows that. It is true in his life. – Yet he has discovered JOY. Life is, sometimes, the pits! Very poor and unschooled and a refugee Kahlil Gibran knew that. It was true in his life. – Yet he discovered JOY. Let us all take a page out of their book and seek to live in that spiritual landscape that is dotted with gratitude and is warmed with the sunshine of JOY.


Listen to Olive Riley (108) sing Bye Bye Blackbird – it will no doubt bring you may want to pause the media player up top first!




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