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Zoe Mulford: Postcards (Blog)

Tour Notes: Thoughts on the Uses of "Delight"

Posted on January 18, 2011 with 4 comments

This week - or possibly next week - is alleged by the British press to contain the most miserable day of the year. (A cursory search brings up articles on the subject in the Guardian, the Telegraph, and the Daily Mail.) I've been neglecting the blog recently, so I'm posting this as a belated follow-up to six weeks of US touring in the fall of 2010.

It was an excellent tour overall and as such required the writing of a lot of heartfelt thank-you notes. In the way of thank-you notes, they felt inadequate in both quantity and quality. While I was writing, I caught myself repeatedly using the word “delight” - a word I regard with mixed feelings. I think it is much misused.

“Delight” conjures up images of dubious food products which for one reason or another cannot be labelled with an honest term like “casserole” or “pudding”. Particularly when paired with ominous words like “low fat”, it translates as “we just made this up and we’re not sure what it is, but we want you to think you’ll like it.”

“Delightful” feels like part of the lexicon of good manners, used by those who are “charmed” and “pleased to meet you” whenever it is socially necessary to be so and not for a moment longer.

And yet there are situations where “delight” is the only word that will do to describe the unreasoned, uncomplicated good feeling that rises up without warning and takes you over completely. It is more urgent than “happiness”, but bubblier and without the deep, ringing overtones of “joy” (though “joy” is good too).

I once completed a walk through an art installation (Dale Chihuly’s handblown glass in the Pittsburgh Botanical Gardens) and realized that my face hurt because I hadn’t once stopped smiling for the last two hours. That’s delight.

The fall tour offered a lot of opportunities for delight. Delight visited me while walking through woods decked out in autumn colors, while standing on a hilltop in West Virginia and hearing the wind rushing over the forested hillsides, while eating soup in good company, while sitting up late jamming with excellent musicians. Delight is a mouthful of homemade grape jelly. Delight is doing a good show for a listening audience. Delight is waking up on a day off and realizing that my most pressing tasks are laundry and gratitude.

Delight is finite. Soup bowls are scraped clean. Songs end. Friends part. Clear fall weather gives way to winter darkness and uncertain road conditions. A nice tour itinerary is replaced by a messy desk and a waiting telephone. That's why it's important to recognize delight when it comes - whether it lasts for thirty seconds, or two hours, or over a period of days.

I hope that delight comes to you, and that however it arrives you will call it by its name, make room for it, and give it your full attention.

George Mulford

July 29, 2011

"Delight" is a word that has been changed forever by one masterful use: Yeats' poem about Lady Gregory's son, "An Irish Airman foresees his Death:"
Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,
Nor public men, nor cheering crowds,
A lonely impulse of delight
Drove to this tumult in the clouds....

Not that I would wish such an exalted emotion any place in your delighted life...

Robin Drake

April 26, 2011

Delight is what I experienced at your house concert in Pittsburgh. I got to the concert by accident, since I was just staying with Ceinwen enroute from a wedding, and found that every song you sang connected. This blog post 'connects' equally well.

Marilee Karamanski

January 19, 2011

I love this! Thank you so much for reminding me to take time to notice "delight".

Paul Hoerner

January 19, 2011

It it was a delight to see an old friend after 30 years, and see what a delightful person she had turned out to be. May you meet the coming miserable day with an ace in your hand...