With all of this rain (and, argh, not snow) this winter, it’s made life feel a little dreary these days, am I right? But last week, I listened to a podcast that instantly made me feel lighter. It was from the show This American Life, which I listen to regularly not just because I have a huge crush on Ira Glass, but because I always come away from an episode feeling broadened.
Anyways, this episode was called “The Show of Delights,” which stemmed from The Book of Delights, written by Ross Gay. For a year, Gay committed to looking for and writing about delight each day, which resulted in truly beautiful essays. Here’s an excerpt from one called “Flower in the Curb:”
“The gold is like a corona around the petals, and there are a few flecks throughout, the way people will have freckles in their eyes or glints of lightning in their pupils. And beside this flower, or kin with it, growing from the same stem as the blazing, is an as-yet-unwrapped bud, greenish with the least hint of yellow, shining in the breeze, on the verge, I imagine, of exploding.”
The podcast episode breaks down into four parts. It starts with the story of Bim Adewunmi, a British-Nigerian woman who at age 19 gets the chance to be a summer camp counselor in California. Adewunmi then takes over the episode from Glass and shares incredible stories, from a woman in her 70s talking to her daughter about how delightful her life has become to a little boy taking the school bus for the first time.
As I drove home from a presentation in Morehead, I listened so intently that I almost felt the desire to scoop up the words I was hearing and swallow them, if only to encourage them to become a permanent part of me. I recognized that if I wasn’t hearing the incantation for a potion, I was at least listening to a recipe for how to live a happier, better life.
As many of you know, I’ve long believed that the concept of being isn’t an abstract one but exists firmly in life’s smallest details. Like in an elastic band in a junk drawer. Or a sherry glass at the peddler’s mall. Or suppertime for the dogs. Or the loose garlic clove in the bowl. Or the pack of dill seeds in the garage. If you can stop and look at these kinds of details, take your time with them, that’s how you can capture life itself, net it like a butterfly and stop its progress for the smallest piece of time. And if you can do that, gratitude inevitably sprouts like that flower in the curb.
Interestingly, the podcast goes a giant step further though. In the fourth act of the episode, host Bim Adewunmi says this:
“In his delight essayette, ‘Bird Feeding,’ the poet Ross Gay witnesses a man feeding a pigeon in the park. Less than 30 seconds later, he watches another bird — a tufted tit mouse this time — swoop down into the hand of a different, wholly unconnected person. A lovely moment twice over. But he wouldn’t have noticed that second bird, he said, if the first bird hadn’t prepared him to see it.”
Then Adewunmi describes a friend of hers, a podcaster named Tracy Clayton, who is recovering from a bad depression. Tracy tells Adewunmi that she’s begun keeping a gratitude journal, an exercise she thought she would tire of, but instead has found incredibly helpful.
So then Adewunmi says, “Tracy’s fans thought of her as their first bird, not only a delightful person by herself, but also a doorway to more delight. Now, she’s figuring out how to be her own first bird, to develop a system to do for herself what had previously come naturally.”
Oh, dear readers, I loved hearing that thought: that delight begets delight. I hope you do too. Imagine what kind of spring we can have keeping these kinds of thoughts at the forefront of our minds.
If anyone wants a copy of Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights, I’ll be happy to send one to the first reader who contacts me. After I finished hearing the podcast, I immediately bought three copies. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org