complicated joy


First we back Derby into the parking lot of the gorgeous nursery. Then we unpack, hauling hat boxes, heavy milk crates and a battered tin into the atrium where we set up our booth. We are here to sell the collage pendants we’ve been creating for the past months.

And after that: hours of talking to customers, some of whom aren’t sure what word they are.



One lady tells us she is looking for ‘Joy.’ In unison, we scrunch our brows, flip through our memory of the 143 pendants for sale and reply: We have no joy today.

She comes alive, approaches our display to tease us. Did we hear what we just said? But now she is hooked on words, ready to play with the collages inside our pendants. Dismissing ‘benevolent’ and its sister, ‘malevolent.’ Studying “Johnny, you can come home now” while all around us ladies in their St. Patrick outfits ebb and flow from booth to booth, each intent on finding something new to purchase.

Just as we are wrapping “As in earth, as in spirit” for the lady with the mint green coat, our joy lady hollers triumphantly. She has found joy after-all, but while she politely elbows her way to us, pendant in hand held over her head, she says, “Well it isn’t exactly ‘joy’, because it says ‘simple joy’ and that’s not quite what I was looking for. “

“Were you looking for a complicated joy?” We ask. But really, lesson learned already: Joy is joy. Maybe there’s no need to qualify.


I love Montana and I miss NYC. A blogger friend posts a photo of the city’s grafitti:

Remember whatever you believe imprisons you.


We are gearing up for our next juried art fair. We take one evening out of the lineup to shop for supplies. Quickly. In and out, no gawking.

At the dollar store, we grab what we need and race for the one cash register. The late evening sun is slanting through the storefront windows such that we cannot really see. Underwater motion, memorizing the landmarks before the sun blinds us as we settle into the long line. (Editors note: a long line in Montana means three people.)

Ahead of us, a $58 pile of frozen pot pies and burritos, two for a dollar. A tub of margarine. Bags of some sort of breaded chicken pieces, a dollar per bag. We grow sober. Until now, we thought the dollar store was  for cheap greeting cards and party balloons. The lady and her teenaged son ahead of us—we see through the blinding rays of sun, their meal plan for the week.


Last month’s issue of the Smithsonian is ready to be mailed to my parents, who will mail it to my sister when they are done reading it. This month’s issue is all about light, photosynthesis. It’s what makes Earth possible.

Edith Widder has spent a good portion of her life exploring the dark side of our oceans. Each day I read a little bit more of her journeys. Right now, I have come to this standstill:

“The Abralia squid can match the color of moonlight.”


Our last stop is at a local pharmacy. We aren’t sure what we are looking for exists, but if it does we assume it’ll be in Aisle Five. We zoom through Aisle Four, squeeze past the skinny teenaged boy talking on his cell phone, “Well I see yellow, I see pink, I see orange. Frick! Yes, I see blue. Geeze Louise, there’s a fuckin’ million different sizes and colors here!”

We turn the corner. “I see . . . what? No, there is nothing here that says that. . . . What?”

We casually backtrack a few steps. He is sliding closer to us, his nose inches from the products on the shelves. He sees maxi, he sees wings, he sees ultra-fresh. Oh! He sees pearl. Grabs a pack and leaves.


Photo by William O’Keefe, slightly enhanced by his elder daughter.


About redmitten

author of Cracking Geodes Open, Making Good Use of August, and The Peppermint Bottle. poetry editor for IthacaLit. website:

10 responses to “complicated joy

  1. lol! you backtracked to see the poor boy wade through the maxi pads. love it 🙂
    but the two in the dollar store – 😦

    and yes you need a pendant that says “every inch in life is important” or something to that effect. so glad to hear that your pendant sales are going well !

    • redmitten

      katy- we are on the same wave length. and yes to the pendants. the next show we are doing asked the vendors for suggestions on where they could donate proceeds from the ticket sales. my daughter and i suggested the center where she has been a lead teacher for four years and tadah- they were chosen. i think of you whenever i encounter big, giving hearts.

  2. Ah, I always feel a simple and expansive joy coming here. And I love the idea of complicated joy, too. And of recycling via mailing your magazine.

    • redmitten

      kathleen, what a nice thing to say, thank you. we also circulate books. if you want to keep the book, you write your name in it, otherwise it never returns. a friend of my parents emails me from washington dc and has asked if i could get my copy of sonia sotomayor to my parents’ house in time for her august visit.

  3. kmerrifi

    Complicated joy! Now there’s a poem in those two words!: ) Thanks, as always, Sherry.

  4. Rose Hunter

    I love this also: “Remember whatever you believe imprisons you.”

  5. Rose Hunter

    Hey, great photos also, at that link, wow–

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