Kristie Dahlia Home
The rear of a truck set up for camping with an awning and a light, a cooler behind it, and huge trees in a very dark forest.
We Are Beloved

It Is Joy By Which

Jul 9, 2024

Beloved friends,

I thought of you in the forest and took this photograph to share with you. James and I were stopped for a night in the Umpquah National Forest in Oregon on our way home from a camping trip in honor of a dear friend's 5oth birthday. National Forests make my heart soar: land that we hold in common.

We left on a Thursday – the Thursday of the first presidential debate. Returning to full connectivity was rather like coming back after Burning Man in 1997 and learning that Lady Diana had died: both times we returned from the wilds to consensus reality having missed a threshold cultural moment which most other folks were grieving. It's a dizzying experience.

I have been aiming my teaching at lovingkindness all year in anticipation of this, the point at which both PTSD from 2020 and the horror of our current moment land. My favorite meditation session from the first round of Lovingkindness is here, free to stream. This is the practice about which someone said, "Oh my God, I literally might not need therapy ever again if I just do this everyday!!" I hope it helps, and there are other practices on that page if this isn't the one you need now.

It was a long drive, this trip. Along the way we listened to the episode of On Being I shared with you recently where Krista Tippett speaks with poet, essayist, professor, and gardener Ross Gay. This interview took place in 2019, deep in the Trump presidency, and Ross is a Black man. Hearing these thoughtful people who I respect and cherish speak about joy and delight at that time of despair was incredibly moving. At one point Krista, having just spoken of a gathering at which despair was afoot, says, "One thing that bothered me about this idea that joy couldn't be possible is that joy is somehow a luxury or a privilege." and Ross, bless him, is so eager to reply that he slightly cuts her short to say in his good-natured voice, "Yeah that's just fuckin' dumb."

Thank you.

Ross also says, "It's sort of like – it is joy by which the labor that will make the life I want possible." Yes, he actually speaks that way. It sounds beautiful coming from him. James replayed the recording again and again as I scribbled feverishly in my notebook to capture these lines for you, beloved. I hold you often in my thoughts.

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I needed this now: the affirmation that we deserve joy, that delight is resistance, that these things are not only of-light; in fact Ross speaks of how "delight" means both of-light and without-light, how joy and sorrow interleave for him like light and shadow. "The delightful things I'm sort of talking about in this book, so often when they're there, they also imply their absence." It's all in there. It's all right here. We can get through this together, friends.

In a creek on this camping trip. Wild nature fuels my heart! We are the life of the universe. US! THIS! Thanks to Leah for the photo and the creek.

Resources for Hope

Of Light, Without Light
The book that Ross and Krista are speaking of is his essay collection The Book of Delights, in which he wrote essays on delight daily for a year, or – most days. He missed four. And can you guess how much I love that he simply allowed those spaces, let the imperfection live in the project rather than faking them in later?

Grace and Power
During the interview, Ross reads his essay/prose poem Loitering; here's that clip on Soundcloud, and here is the text in the Paris Review. An exquisite meditation upon race, freedom, capitalism, and delight. Thanks to Lizzy.

The More-Than-Human World
Carpenter ants have been documented performing surgery: they amputate the legs of their fellows who have infected wounds to save their lives. Here's the study, and here's NPR coverage. We are not the only people in this world. We are not alone.

The Wisdom of Birders
I'm happy to share this quote from my local Audobon Society's newsletter both because I love its anticapitalist perspective and because it comes with other good news: many chapters of this organization, including mine, are changing their names to cease honoring a white supremacist who enslaved people. Many groups are going with some version of "Bird Alliance" which I find a little silly-sounding in the most pleasing way. Seeing change helps to combat despair. Despair stops us from taking action. Action is what makes the world we live in. Everything helps.

Starting in June, many Audubon chapters here and across the country put a pause on their monthly programming, board meetings, and events to rest, regroup and get outside. One of the notable aspects of Audubon is that we take great pleasure – and find much strength - in enjoying the birds and places that we work so hard to protect. In the words of Edward Abbey, “ not burn yourselves out. Be as I am - a reluctant enthusiast.... a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it.”

We Are Love In Action
Vote Forward organizes massive get-out-the-vote letter writing campaigns and conducts research proving their efficacy. This is a simple way that most people can take action. Taking action breaks paralysis and helps us keep acting. Action can bring both hope and change. The price of Forever stamps is going up on July 14th, so if you'd like to get involved, now is a great time to stock up. I'm going to the post office today to do so. If you join me, drop me a line and let me know! Thanks to Wendy, Aimee, and Amelia.

I've mentioned before and will do so again, I'm sure: Resistbot is the app that I use to write to all of my elected representatives in about 2 minutes most days. It brings me some solace to know I am giving voice. Thanks to Itzel.

Pure Delight
The joyful sounds of a 7 week old squirrel eating.

If you have ways to take action, sources or hope, or sources of delight to share, I'd love to to hear your ideas or your story; please reach out.