May 6: Sun arrived briefly, and I seized the moment to sit outside, outback. With old trees falling too-frequently to new houses, our neighborhood is sunny — and sagging. And so I savored the perimeter of tall trees that marks the boundary of our tiny backyard, an ignored remnant of trees too out-of-the way to be noticed. Our backyard is as skinny as a noodle, notched in a wide middle angle to align with our long skinny house. At the angle, I saw a magnificent evergreen reaching taller than I’d ever noticed before, perhaps 30 feet high. Its limbs blossomed with feathery needles, almost like fern fronds or those firework sprays that cascade down in tiny green sparkles. The evergreen had seized a bit of sky neglected by the older, taller trees surrounding it. Nate later explained to me that a tree standing alone will eventually cap its own height. But a tree among sun-hungry neighbors will elbow its way up too, to become as majestic as they. I resolved to add another tree to our perimeter, to stimulate such striving and to enrich their haven.
May 7: I’ve found a new playlist, consisting of classical guitar playing the music of 15th and 16th century lutes. The gaudy full-bodied vigor of Renaissance painting and sculpture (which I love) fell away to these delicate offerings. Precise and serene, the music had emerged from France and Italy, Spain and Germany, England and Holland in a time of political and religious disagreement. Yet these pieces agreed to make beauty in the same way, and the succession of loveliness healed my soul.
May 8: The rain had briefly yielded, and from my bedroom I heard a family of children on our swing set. I peaked at them though the blinds and returned to my office. From that window, I saw a boy teaching his little sister how to use binoculars. I looked away — and then back again as they dashed past my window. The swing-set kids now walked up the street with their mom, and the binocular kids, having waited their social-distancing turn, were the ones chirping glad sounds on the swings.
May 9: The hoods of our snow coats kept out some of the chilling wind, but I was grateful for my scarf and gloves too. Kevin and I stood on the tree-fringed ridge of our tiny acre in West Virginia. Our land, on the margins of a vast, densely wooded rustic retreat center, sits about a mile from the Appalachian trail and less than half a mile from the Shenandoah River. We hadn’t visited in several years, but there in the ravine below us lay trails and Krishna Creek and the Hidden Waterfall. Even though the wind noisily pushed the trees around, the waterfall’s whisper reached us too. We will visit you again soon, we whispered back.
Today is also my birthday. Jeremiah led our traditional birthday parade — through the house and around the dining room table, keeping cake and cards out of reach for just a moment. Nate, Jeremiah, Kevin and I then looked at photos of birthday celebrations past. We discovered that my high-cheeked, bright-toothed, closed-eye smile comes pretty easily, especially after the boys summoned a “choose your fighter” close-up they’d made last year of that exact expression. It’s easy to laugh at my happy self when I’m so happy. Choose me, I said to them. And they did.
My Year of Delights: We did it. A year ago, I pledged to seek and record a delight each day. I honestly wasn’t sure I could sustain the practice or find the delights. I quickly found the delights and discovered myself expecting them, often accumulating several delights in reserve in case a delight-free day gloomed over me. It never did.
For 366 days, the universe unfolded before me in the tiniest of ways, all expressions of the Divine. As Walt Whitman aptly wrote, “I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.” Indeed. I will keep expecting, keep watching and keep trusting that delight is there for me to see, for us all to see. I have re-opened my eyes and my sensing heart. Perhaps I’ve rewired my brain too. My pen and keyboard and camera are now extensions of that new seeing and that new savoring.
Mary Oliver exactly expressed my wonderment and gratitude. In “Good Morning,” she wrote: “The multiplicity of forms! The hummingbird, the fox, the raven, the sparrow hawk, the otter, the dragonfly, the water lily! And on and on. It must be a great disappointment to God if we are not dazzled at least ten times a day.”
Yes. Thank you for sharing this journey with me.
(I’m not going away. I’ll be back soon with a short piece each week, prompted by some delight or wonder or memory that graces my life. I hope you’ll continue to join me.)
Love, Carol Ann