September 18: Playwright and performer Heidi Schreck strode across the Kennedy Center stage reinterpreting the prize-winning speech of her youth, “What the Constitution Means to Me.” By turns humorous, poignant, provocative and enraging, her words summoned reflection. And they also summoned Siri, who — well into the play — cheerily and loudly offered to help. Siri, you can’t help. This situation is in our hands.
September 19: every morning, at the Metro entrance, an older man greets me. He knows I’m reading a book, so he doesn’t offer me the free Washington Post Express tabloid. But he gives me a smile and best wishes for the day. I always salute him in return, but I never told him how much I value his constancy and kindness, how his cheer lifts my step and delights me each morning, or how I would miss him if he were gone. Well, he’s gone. The Express is gone, and with it my friend. I thought I had tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow to express my gratitude. I didn’t. Can I learn from this? Who will I surprise today (and tomorrow) with a bit of thanks?
September 20: I arrived in Kansas City this morning earlier than I would have reached my desk. My cousin Lynita greeted me at the airport and swept me and my sister-in-law Susan into a day where the delights rippled like rings in a pond. City girl that I am, I relished the fountains (more numerous in KC than in any city in the world, other than Rome), the magnificently restored Union Station, the views, the free streetcar, the urban markets and 19th century buildings, the brunch carafe fragrant with mint, ginger, lemon and rye whiskey, ice cream at Betty Rae’s, and the feeling that I would spend my entire Midwestern idyll never feeling remotely hungry. Reaching home, we needed a nap. And we needed our sister-in-law Karolina, newly arrived from Iowa. More, more: KC barbecue, jigsaw puzzles, snacks, conversation and wine long into the night. I promised to return — and to return such loving hospitality.
September 21: Susan and I decided it was like the video game Crazy Taxi, country style. Swerves, hills, blocked roads, gravel turn-offs, heedless frogs and deer looming in the menacing woods. After the beautiful sunset, I needed to wield my high beams like a laser. But we decided I’d lose “health” if I failed to dim them for an oncoming car or to restore them after it passed. We agreed that to advance to Level Two, I needed simultaneously to work the high beams and scan for deer (although I freely deployed my “boost,” Susan, perched at shotgun).
Looking at my pokey 45 on the speedometer, Susan said, “You know the speed limit is 60.” Nope: high beams + scanning + fast is definitely not Level One. I gripped the steering wheel until my knuckles shone like stars, just as I grip a video game controller. (Nate: “Mom, you mean playing this game isn’t relaxing for you?” That game involved two yarn-like friends helping each other over a rocky trail.) After 60 minutes, we reached a town, a traffic light and a sign explaining that to stay on Route 136 I needed to make a left at the light. I dutifully glided into the turn lane. Shotgun Susan: “Uh, it’s still two-way traffic.” Finally, alive, we reached the Kum & Go for a brief rest. As we traded drivers, Susan gave me a fist bump. “Level Two,” she said.
September 22: A few more Missouri delights: the HyVee, where cupcakes rested on a table cloth patterned with scurrying picnic ants; the wedding, where I embraced the bride & groom, as well as old friends of Lois, my dear mother-in-law six years passed but never gone; and a pasture where two horses sauntered together on either side of a fence, heads turned toward each other, exchanging breaths or gossip or love.
September 23: Jeremiah turns 22 today. Jeremiah: his wacky humor, big heart, expansive curiosity, eager intelligence and so much more. He’s my delight today and always.
September 24: Walking home from watching the Nats clinch a Wild Card berth (!), I started listening to a podcast about silence. The speaker, an “acoustic ecologist,” said that we are in danger of losing silence. I almost couldn’t hear him over the deep and varied chirps of bird and cricket. Then I caught myself, turned off the podcast and let the night sounds speak to me instead.
A Reader’s Delight: During a staff meeting, one person mentioned how much he looks forward to his morning cup of coffee each day. His colleague then circulated a lovely excerpt from Rules of Civility: A Novel, by Amor Towles, which I present below. As my friend said, “It was part of a conversation about pausing each day to give gratitude for small things in our lives. Made me think of your Year of Delights.” I very much appreciated this excerpt. I think you will too.
“But one night near the end, as I was sitting at his bedside trying to entertain him with an anecdote about some nincompoop with whom I worked, out of the blue he shared a reflection which seemed such a non sequitur that I attributed it to delirium. Whatever setbacks he had faced in his life, he said, however daunting or dispiriting the unfolding of events, he always knew that he would make it through, as long as when he woke in the morning he was looking forward to his first cup of coffee. Only decades later would I realize that he had been giving me a piece of advice. Uncompromising purpose and the search for eternal truth have an unquestionable sex appeal for the young and high-minded; but when a person loses the ability to take pleasure in the mundane—in the cigarette on the stoop or the gingersnap in the bath—she has probably put herself in unnecessary danger. What my father was trying to tell me, as he neared the conclusion of his own course, was that this risk should not be treated lightly: One must be prepared to fight for one’s simple pleasures and to defend them against elegance and erudition and all manner of glamorous enticements.”
Dear Readers, do you find yourself noticing small delights during your own day? I’d love to share yours here. Send me a few sentences or a photo — or both! And let me know if I should mention your name. Email your Delight here: Carolann.email@example.com. You might, as I do, start finding them in surprising places. Let’s glimpse bits of joy together.
p.s. Good news for me: after slipping in the rain (what rain?!) two weeks ago and relaxing through my MRI, I learned today that I have a hip flexor strain but no tear. Thank you for your prayers and good wishes.