This holiday season, we are bidding farewell to 2020 and welcoming 2021 with a series we are calling “The Conversation,” a collection of brief, but meaningful insights and reflections curated and shared by members of the Domain7 team, centring on themes that help us reflect on a tumultuous year and move forward into the future. We are exploring change, resilience, community, transformation, and grounded hope. Today’s host is Tracey Falk, design director at Domain7. Just to note that we are, like many of you, working largely from home and that these recordings may have a homemade flavour. We hope you enjoy joining us in our work and neighbourhood environments for a little audio visit. Here’s Tracey.
Hello, everyone, and happy holidays. Today, I want to share a short essay by Ross Gay. Ross Gay is an American poet, professor, and gardener. When he turned 42, he decided to write a brief essay every day for the next year focusing on things that delighted him, such as the response of strangers as he carried a tiny tomato plant through an airport or the way a friend of his terribly but delightfully misuses a two-handed, double-fingered air quote gesture. What stands out most in Ross’s writings are those things that he calls small actions of individuals that create community, the underground union between us, you and me, which is, among other things, the great fact of our life.
I bought his book of essays entitled appropriately, The Book of Delights, just a couple of weeks before pandemic restrictions hit back in March. The timing, needless to say, felt ironic. Reading through his sometimes laugh-out-loud descriptions of familiar human gestures and the joy he gets from simple interactions between people actually became a sort of bandaid for me on what still is a so very weird moment in time, but more so even back in March when there was this collective sense of life slamming to a standstill, of a sudden absence of each other instead of the presence that we take for granted.
In this strange new context, Ross’s insights on person-to-person everyday micro-interactions seem almost now bizarrely nostalgic. Piled up like he has them and called out for the depth that lies beneath the seemingly inconsequential, Ross’s collection of insights into our commonalities feels like a critical reminder in a time where we are increasingly divided and separated now, almost literally.
What I want to read for you is a short essay from this book entitled “Sharing a Bag,” written on November 26, 2016. Ross writes:
“I adore it when I see two people. Today, it was, from the looks of it, a mother and child here on Canal Street in Chinatown sharing the burden of a shopping bag or sack of laundry by each gripping one of the handles. It at first seems to encourage a staggering as the uninitiated or the impatient will try to walk at his own pace, the bag twisting this way and that, whacking shins or skidding along the ground. But as we mostly do, feeling the sack, which has become a kind of tether between us, we modulate our pace, even our sway and saunter, those good and sole rhythms we might swear we live by, to the one on the other side of the sack.
I suppose part of why I so adore the sack-sharing is because most often this is a burden one or the other could manage just fine solo, which makes it different from dragging granny’s armoire up two flights of stairs, say, or rustling free a truck stuck hip-deep in a snowbank. Yes, it’s the lack of necessity of this app that’s perhaps precisely why it delights me so. Everything that needs doing, getting the groceries or laundry home, would get done just fine without this meager collaboration, but the only thing that needs doing without it would not.”
I find Ross’s commitment to observation, particularly now, particularly with life seemingly reduced or held back, pulling me more fully to a personal truth, to what is typically a reflective gesture of mine, noticing the small things, but that had seemed to also get shocked into silence and the sudden jolt of life disruption. Ross’s writing and insights are a reminder that there is always, always beauty and delight in our view, particularly in our interactions with each other. It just requires a pause long enough, a look deep enough, a feeling felt fully enough that we notice this delight in the mundane, the everyday, and the seemingly inconsequential. If I were to leave us with a question to ponder, it would simply be this, as Ross himself asks, “How much do we actually attend to the ways that we make each other possible?”
Tracey read an excerpt from Ross Gay’s book, The Book of Delights: Essays, published by Algonquin Books in 2019. “The Conversation” is a special edition of Domain7’s podcast, Change is in the Making. Our audio producer is Kurt Wilkinson, and our designer is Ryan Martinez. Music provided by James Boraas. Leadership and editorial support provided by Sarah Butterworth, Kevan Gilbert, and myself, Veronica Collins. Please tune in each weekday for the first half of December to hear more from our team on moving from 2020 into 2021 with hope and purpose, or visit us at domain7.com for more ideas, resources, and podcasts. Happy holidays.