Ross Gay Moments
I am driving to pick up ear wash for my dog, a benign errand made grand only by the fact that I am alone in the car. I click on "This American Life." The lispy, endearing voice of Ira Glass says, "Today we bring you our show, about delight.”
It’s a re-run. I had heard this episode many months earlier, and then promptly forgot the entire thing. Then the pandemic happened and then came fall and the leaves were confused by the early snow.
I notice how quickly my mind is already wandering from the podcast to conflicted feelings about the lady in front of me who is driving ten-under the limit.
Then, over the car speakers, “Ross Gay will be joining us to talk about his collection of essays, The Book of Delights.”
My thoughts click back into present-tense position, alongside a rubberband-snap of a grin.
I was gifted an 8-week writing course over the months of November and December called Crafting the Chaos. It was taught by a poet. My fellow students were, by and large, poets. As the weeks went by, I felt my own coloring shift to match my poet-surroundings, like an Easter egg absorbs the color it's submerged in. We were introduced to one great writer after the next.
Ross Gay’s A Small Needful Fact, a short poem about the senseless death of Eric Garner, grabbed me by the throat with its gentle heartbreak. I read the poem at least a dozen times, deliberately, savoring the commas and spacing, like chewing food well beyond disintegration.
I read as much Ross Gay as I could muster over the next few hours/days/weeks. I felt like I was at the precipice of learning another language for Truth.
The first time I had heard this podcast, the name Ross Gay slipped by like any other unknown. There was no traction, no need for traction, as with anything that lacks meaning. I think of the song that is nothing but noise until the moment it collides with our very deepest insides. Then the music becomes something of a religion.
Somehow, the world being what it is, that small act of not missing this Ross Gay moment feels worthy of celebration. Like a nod from the Big Man himself, as a reminder to never stop looking up.
The next day, I am still thinking of Ross Gay as I go out for a walk with my almost-five-year-old Ruth. I had just read about the president’s incitation of violence from his supporters, how he encouraged them to surge the Capital Building. I am shaken to the core.
I don’t think too hard about how those tiny moments of magic—read: delight—can coexist with the dumpster fire of our deranged president and our divided nation.
The sky is the purest shade of blue, so clear that the eyes have nothing to focus on. But the section of sky that is a backdrop to a cluster of Aspens—with their bare branches like bone—is particularly breathtaking. Because of the contrast, both pieces emerge as more vivid, more penetrating, than if they were to exist on their own.
In his conclusion to his assessment of delight on This American Life, Ross Gay said: “Joy is made up of our sorrow just like it’s made up of what’s pleasing to us. Delight often implies its absence."