06/30/2012 09:48 EDT | Updated 08/29/2012 05:12 EDT

Dispatches From Down East: Perspective Comes From the Strangest Places

Flickr: Michael Behrens

I broke a fourth tooth in less than a year, all while eating a bagged lunch the other day. A lunch that my husband had lovingly prepared for me, nonetheless. I was eating alphabet pretzels when the cookie crumbled. In case you are wondering. Breaking a tooth whilst eating junk food creates a taste sensation of unparalleled proportions, mixing enamel in with all the other crunchy bits and pieces in the process of being swallowed down a gulp at a time.

I had originally purchased the bagged snack/teaching tool for my kindergarten students so as to make learning fun. FUN, I say. Just like I was (not) having now that my appetite had suddenly vanished. Glad my little kindergarten friends never had the joy of eating these tasty little morsels, as they are like crunching on driveway gravel. Particularly when chewed up with an enamel chip off a broken tooth.

I have been a bit of a cranky, stressed-out mama bear lately. And for good reason. Turns out I have been grinding my teeth into gunpowder while trying to catch a few zzz's in the process. The dentist today remarked on the extreme power in my jaws, which might have been flattering if my mouth had not been propped open with a two-by-four made out of a pen-like cotton ball accompanied by a piercing bright light shining on the gaping hole in there, further magnifying my chipped teeth and swollen gum line.

I look like a light-weight boxing competitor who has seen better days. And indeed I have.

Life is all about perspective, right? So with the goal of shifting perspectives in mind, I set out this warm sunlit evening to find a little piece of joy in nature so as to cast some perspective and illumination on an otherwise expensive ($2,200 worth of upcoming dental work), depressing (there goes the camper we were going to buy) and discouraging (I am wondering if false teeth are an option for a 38-year-old mother of four) day.

I walk sans children, husband or friends with a view in mind, that being the picturesque Mill River winding its way gracefully along the shores of red clay in Western Prince Edward Island. It is for me, more of a pity party at first. Poor me, why me, why now...maybe you know the drill?

Then, I begin noticing a few things. A slow-moving fuzzy caterpillar, and then another, crawling along the side of the road. The elegant lupins, just beginning to emerge in hues of pale pink, fuschia and indigo. A broken clothespin. How did that arrive in my path? The Queen's Anne Lace, stooping to touch soft grass growing beneath. Buttercups grouped around a culvert, a bunch of daisies along the edge of the road, a lone dandylion puff waiting for a gust to give flight to delicate seeds.

And after a few more moments, I draw my gaze up and far down the path I am traveling, and the view of the water takes my breath away.

The deep blue of river waves, gently lapping red sandstone shores. The well-worn road leading fishers to a point of entrance. A wooden boat floating tranquilly in shallow water. The jagged rock underfoot as I carefully pick my path. Wooden staircases from cottage lots leading down to the shore. A black dog, standing still and free in the water. Crisp layers of seaweed overlapping and layered, squishing underfoot as soles press down. The sound of a lawnmower in the distance cutting blades of green summer grass. The smell of the river water -- pungent salt mixed with sweet algae.

The beauty of evening, fast fading to twilight. Glorious evening of an almost-summer day.

And in the beauty of these moments, these brief interludes of time, in between reality past and reality future, I realized that I could be happy. I can be, right now. I do not have to make a promise for 15 minutes away, nor do I need to make compensations for the misery of hours ago while under the drill of my watchful dentist. I can commit to right now.

This is pure, unadulterated happiness. To be alone in nature in blessed quietness. Does it get any better than this?

When we allow ourselves brief moments in which to feel joy, we find happiness is not so elusive. And what makes us happy will in turn bring us joy in wave after wave of memory, as we return to that place of pleasure again and again in our minds. Like those waves on a shore formed of red clay that I walked tonight. Our memory, that collective of sounds, sights, triggers and emotions that help to form for us reminiscences of those freeze-frame windows in time that we hope never to forget.

It is a gift.

We touch the face of joy when we live out our days as joy found in small moments rather than trying to make sense of large chunks of time. Because it is indeed all about perspective. I can say I have had a bad day, but really I had a few bad moments.

Those moments will surely lead to more unpleasant moments in the days to come, as I seek to remedy these chipped and broken teeth. But, there are moments in this day that were pure pleasure. The moments right before bed when I cuddled with each of my children, one by one. When I snuggled the youngest, read with the next in line, my middle child, when I kissed the warm forehead of my oldest daughter, and shared a laugh with my only son. Those moments are just as much a part of my day as were those frustrating ones at the dentist's office.

And so, I choose. JOY.

Again, and again and again. I choose joy. In the small moments. Because that is not too much ask. And I can commit to something small like a moment.