Saturday, February 07, 2015

Little mossy gardens and Joy

I went and sat in the Arboretum cafe this afternoon, for the sake of leaving the house and driving in the countryside. It's very pleasant on yonder hill. The cafe is a vast high-ceilinged cavernous space, but is strangely not noisy and stark, and it has this vista in its favour, this being taken from my table out the window.

I actually thought I'd re-read Surprised by Joy by CS Lewis, after dabbling in that essay last weekend, as it's been a few years now and I have forgotten things I'd like to remember. So, I finished chapter one, in which Lewis describes his desire for Joy being awakened by his brother's toy moss garden constructed in a biscuit-tin lid, then I went for a wander in the Bonsai Collection. Strangely apt.

The photos don't do these wonders justice, as it was too sunny and I had only my phone so couldn't wipe some of the surrounding distractions out of focus, and you can't really be amazed by the scale of these creations, but I did find many of these strange little trees very evocative. (I must go back in a better light with a better camera.)

I don't think I have ever posted the quintessential Lewis in which he describes his discovery of Joy, so here it is, from the first chapter of Surprised by Joy.
... I will only underline the quality common to the three experiences; it is that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and from Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again. Apart from that, and considered only in its quality, it might almost equally well be called a particular kind of unhappiness or grief. But then it is a kind we want. I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is. 
I actually came home and read The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, by Beatrix Potter, as that formed one of the three experiences Lewis is describing. I can't say that I was transported by any Idea of Autumn (though I do very much love Autumn, and am pleased to be back in a climate where it comes in all its splendour, and the Brambly Hedge Autumn comes closer), but that only proves the contextual and singular nature of these stabs of longing.

So I had myself an afternoon of what pleasure is in my control, as Lewis writes:
What more felicity can fall to creature
Than to enjoy delight with liberty?


Meredith said...

How wonderful. I am very fond of those little folk at Brambly Hedge. Looks like you had a special day.

Ali said...

Ah thanks Meredith. Yes, I don't always send myself out to a cafe to do things I can otherwise do at home, but many weekends will find me in one somewhere and I enjoy when I do. I too love Brambly Hedge. I have more small dressed mice on my crochet to-do list.