My dog Sammy, God rest his soul, used to love to sniff my head and snuffle through my hair. When he finished, he always gave me one of those silly grins that labs are famous for.
Why did he love to sniff my head?
Hell if I know. Why do any of us love what we love? I only know I was always glad to see Sammy happy, so I let him sniff away.
Which brings me to today’s topic: delight. If you are casting about for something to spark your writing, I suggest you give serious consideration to your delights. Quite often, we writers are elbowed into writing about our pain, fears and secrets. All well and good, and there is much to be had there. But don’t forget that there is treasure, too, in your delights.
“The world is mud-luscious,”
- e.e. cummings.
- e.e. cummings.
Oooh, I think e.e. delighted in mud, don't you?
For me, it’s when I simply stand and look and smile, or when I notice that I’d really, really like to just hang out in a particular moment for a good, long time.
A few years ago I started a Delights journal. The impulse came when I read this quote:
“I put in my pictures everything I like."
- Pablo PicassoHey--if it’s good enough for Picasso, it’s good enough for me.
Do I know what I like? I asked myself. It was a tougher question than it should have been.
It dawned on me that it might be fruitful to make note of things that spark that particular feeling in me. So I selected a small notebook, put a label on it reading “Lynn’s Delights” and started taping onto the pages images of (and written notes on) things I could honestly say delight me.
A sampling of what has made its way into this notebook:
- Photo of a highway: open road, blue Wyoming sky;
- Image cut from a dog calendar: a hot, panting retriever with his belly on a cool spot;
- Notation: a steaming hot washcloth on my face on a cool camping morning;
- Photo of my grandnephew at age 5 or 6. He is facing away from the camera, straw cowboy hat square on his head. He leans forward against a railing, watching sheep mill around in a pen. Safety pinned to his back is a sign (Laramie County Fair #13). It was his first mutton-busting competition and I delight in the set of his small shoulders as he concentrates on the upcoming challenge;
- Image clipped from Wyoming Wildlife magazine: pika with a mouthful of grass;
- Notation: Heard a guy say, "I’m flustrated" – I don’t think he meant to coin a new term, but I love it!;
- Photo of a gray-muzzled lab with his head tilted back in full-howl position;
- Image clipped from a magazine of a row of grinning children, posing in a garden with their rakes and shovels, each one slathered in dirt.
The essay Naamu came from the delight I felt during a verbal exchange with the afore-mentioned grandnephew. The exchange is at the end of the essay, but that was the conversation which started me off on the essay-writing journey.
I know I’m not the only one who pays attention to my delights. I find evidence everywhere of it in the things I read:
Like Pat Frolander, delighting in food (and making my mouth water): *
fresh bread awaits the knife,
roast beef braises, brown gravy simmers.
Or Carol Deering, delighting in the delight of horses: **
The horses leap, swing their heads,
then jog the periphery of joy.
Sometimes I find it helps to have permission to do things, so...
I hereby grant you permission to pay close attention to your delights,
in case you aren’t already.
In whatever fashion works for you, collect your delights. Then see where they lead when you sit down to write. If you write fiction, one of your delights might attach itself to your main character. Who knows?
It's an assignment, really. Do it for your writing.
Then pipe up in the comments section below, if you please, and tell us...
What delights you?
* From “Second Table” by Pat Frolander, published in Married Into It, Glendo, Wyo.: High Plains Press 2011.
** From “A Flurry of Horses” by Carol A. Deering, published in Weather Watch: Poems of Wyoming, s.l.: WYOPoets c2014.