Choosing Delight

Ross Gay’s Book of Delights is an invitation. Starting and ending on his birthday, the poet wrote an essay a day about the things, people and events that struck his delight – a smile from the person selling him a bus ticket, a song on the radio, his garden, a turn of phrase, fresh lychees on sale, a high-five from a stranger. With each essay, his poetic riffing sweeps you up and carries you away on an infectious tide of delight.

During this year, Gay found that, the more he practiced this discipline – this constant alert for delights – the more delight he found. His life still held sorrow, fear, pain and loss, but his delight grew. The world around him started to call out to him “Write about me!” Delights abounded, and his ability to see them expanded. His delight muscle strengthened.

Exercising this muscle is always available to us. The aroma of baking cookies, droplets of water on a blade of grass, a joke shared with a stranger. All are there for the savoring if only we turn our attention to them. We just need to make the crucial choice of where we put our attention. And as Mary Pipher’s new book, Women Rowing North, reminds all of us, regardless of age, this choice – this guiding our attention – is essential to constructing our own happiness.

The Book of Delights invites us to choose delight. Instead of rushing ahead, brow furrowed with worry and eyes downcast or narrowed in judgment, we are invited to open our eyes and ears wide to the delights that surround us. Big and small, profound and silly, we take note – similar to a gratitude practice but lighter, less ponderous. A tuning of our internal radio dial to the delight channel (KDLT?) so we notice these wonders. It’s fantastic! Friday morning I was dragged from bed too early by our new puppy (who is delightful but not at 5:25 a.m., as I had been up ’til midnight), and when I staggered outside clutching my hot tea with milk (delightfully warm, steam curling), I saw the crescent moon still rising with the dark side visible, perfectly lined up with one tiny, almost invisible star and one big, bright star. Or maybe a planet. Almost definitely a planet. And though I know the moon is much closer and the stars or planets or whatever are millions of miles away, it looked to me in that moment like they formed a celestial path. Delightful.

I accept the invitation. Each day this month I will seek delight, take note and share. Join me. Let’s get in shape together.