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An easy way to discover more delight, daily

Cow dung (delightful)

How might your life be different if, every day, you tracked on delight?

I stole this idea from a poet.

One of my reading finds at the end of the year was The Book of Delights by poet Ross Gay. Gay challenged himself to identify and write about a delight each day for a year. Admittedly, he missed a few days. (Delight never needs to be pushed!)

Reading his short daily essays is like soaking in poetry wrapped in prose.

His brief essays include scenes of his noticings, musings, and reflections on events that have delighted him (criteria open-ended). His thoughts include riffs on beauty as well as racism, taken from his life as an Indiana-based, mixed-race professor. He shares some of the secret code of brotherhood that allows a black man to tap the arm of a black stranger or be lovingly addressed by a stewardess as “baby.” Both delight him.

My commitment to delight

As a result of reading Gay, I’ve decided to:

  1. notice more and start tracking on delight.
  2. scribble a few occasional notes.

I’m taking his idea, without committing to the high bar of his prose. Already, delight-keeping has made my daily trip to muck the paddock more interesting!

Keeping a diary of delights sounds like the oft-recommended gratitude journal, in which you record one or more things for which you are grateful every day. Both practices tune your mind towards appreciation.

Gratitude and delight are cousins, sharing many of the same traits with a few differences.

Although we sometimes say, “I’m just feeling grateful,” out of a feeling of plenitude, gratitude usually implies a context, even if not stated. I may delight in a baby’s smile, but, if I’m grateful for a baby’s smile, it implies a background, perhaps a reason, e.g., not enough smiles in my life recently, the baby wasn’t able to smile for a while, I know what it means for the parents, it lights me up, etc.

I am grateful for something. I’m delighted in something. The baby’s smile delights. Period.

I can delight in things I may not be grateful for and I can be grateful even if I haven’t found delight.

When I search for delight, I use a micro-lens searching for the small, common, unnoticed parts of my life.

For example, I delight in the daddy longlegs hovering precariously above my bathtub, risking his life should he tumble into the hot water below. Am I grateful for turning my bathtub into a floating graveyard for insect carcasses? Not really. Is his dance intriguing and delightful? Totally.

I took the above photo of dried cow dung while walking through a sun-soaked meadow. I delighted in the beauty of the brown sculpted spirals. Am I grateful for the dung? Hmmm. I’m grateful for the photo and the experience.

A fly in my bedroom can be delightfully acrobatic as it careens at high speeds, landing, pausing, launching again, keeping its tiny motor of sound going whenever in flight. As choreography, it’s amazingly delightful. But I wasn’t exactly keen on lying awake in bed waiting for my aerial star to close down flight school for the day.

Tracking on delight opens my eyes. How many of us loved the poet, Mary Oliver, because she could go out into her backyard or the woods behind her house and see a poem others might have missed?

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.

From the poem “Wild Geese”

Can I find delight in everything?

Nope. At least not yet. I find no delight in catastrophic fires in Australia, threats of war, or most politics in D.C.

Still, the old barbed-wire slung across a New York City bridge looks whimsically architectural.

The shot-weed that will threaten my garden in a few months is quite beautiful today.

The chic style of a friend’s “chemo cap” is gorgeous (delight), even though it hides a sadly bald head.

Three tips for discovering more delight

  • Pay attention to what surprises, startles, or strikes you as unusual.
  • Let go of your judgments of good/bad or ideas of what something is supposed to be or do.
  • Squint/change your perspective; view the world like a newcomer.

Delight lives everywhere, expanding as you acknowledge it.

(Unlike the shotweed, this is a good thing.)

Thank you Ross Gay. While I’ll never compete with your prose, you opened a door for me to see the world, one small delight at a time.


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