This morning, on a marvelous walk at Radnor Lake — cold, crystal blue sky, no wind and thus a perfect reflection of trees in a pond — my dear friend Denise reminded me of Ross Gay’s Book of Delights. On his 42nd birthday, Gay committed “to write a daily essay about something delightful.”
This felt so right — as if I were suddenly walking on stars.
At home, I grabbed a tiny notebook (a portion of van Gogh’s Irises on the cover, a small-but-mighty magnet clasp, and, on each page, a watermark of Irises) and dashed off a list of delights, including, of course, the notebook itself. I’d bought the notebook months ago and here it was, waiting for this exact moment. I can carry it with me and dash off the delight of the moment.
So what delight to write about for today? The beautiful big mugs of coffee topped by frothy milk which Alan lovingly made for us? That sparkling Radnor pond reflecting barren trees capped by a stunning blue sky? Denise’s deep knowledge of the theology of play? Yes, yes…. That’s the one.
When I asked her out of nowhere about “play theology,” she responded instantly — sharing that she had done an honors thesis on this very topic. She talked about its history in the middle ages and its resurfacing briefly in the 1970’s, only to be squashed by the Vietnam War. But she also talked of creativity! I believe “God creates” is what she said by way of explanation. Oh my — did it resonate. Who cares whether or not I believe in God — although, an aside: I delight in Denise’s theology that “God is big.”
Six days later and I’m still glorying in this practice of noticing delights — sometimes reveling in them, often jotting them down, and always smiling. Smiling — it’s yoga of the mouth according to Thich Nhat Hanh.
I’m thinking of reinstating my Zen-Habits-based monthly practices — this time with two twists. First they will be bimonthly (giving more time to sink into them) and second they will all be about cultivating kindness.
Dabbling in delights as a form of kindness, you ask? Me too. But my gut says it’s so. As I review one week’s lists, it’s unquestionably a form of kindness to self. And often the delights involve other people, so there too the kindness is clear. For the remainder, thus far I’ve been able to trace each one back to some form of kindness: noticing the unnoticed, appreciating something made by someone long ago, gratitude, and so on. Ergo, it stands.
If I do this I’ll adapt two of Ross Gay’s rules and add one of my own:
- “Write a delight” every day (except Mondays).
- “Draft them quickly” in a private place on my computer.
- Share once in a while on this site.
Yes. I’m going forward with two months of dabbling in delights.
Wishing you all a delight-filled New Year,