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Seeking Delight

ColunbiaGorge-scenery-BTHushed by the woods, I tiptoed my way down the narrow trail, keen to every rustle in the thickets. Birds no longer tweeted here. The trees were too profuse for their calls. Only the leaves sighed in rapt unknowable languages, murmuring amongst themselves a poetry I couldn’t understand. And every once in a while, when I turned a corner or climbed another set of stone steps I heard a gurgling — the ancient song of water burbling over rocks. But of the stream itself there was no visible sign. 

Something deep within me bubbled up at the sound of that hidden rivulet: an emotion that identified with the musicality of fluid meeting solid; a feeling of instant, tender, ephemeral joy which wanted to burst from my pores to meet its ebullient twin. I wasn’t hunting for this state of mind; I hadn’t even noticed it had gone missing. But, the minute joy spread through my body I knew its absence had affected the way I moved through the world. I began to wonder when and how I had lost it, and whether I could actively nurture this joy as a perpetual wellspring of sustenance.  

Columbia-Gorge-forest-BT“What gives me joy,” I wondered, meandering between the dense fern vegetation. Thick, furry trunks of elms and alders closed out the sun, leaving the understory in shades of black and topaz. And, I perceived that this dance of shadows delighted me. A branch of maidenhair trembled forward to graze my knee. I stooped down to examine its filigreed delicacy and realized that this architecture also delighted. A caterpillar hobbled across a thread flung between two shrubs; a moment before I had not observed the filament, yet now as the creature performed its high-wire act I couldn’t unsee it. “What serendipity,” I murmured. By chance the caterpillar and I had met at a time when its journey allowed me to witness nature’s inevitable interrelationship. 

The more incidents I stopped to savor, the wider became my scope of delights. I didn’t make headway on my hike, but what did that matter? Every fount of glee led to another, until I was lost in a landscape of ecstasy. “Could it be,” I mused, “that the key to maintaining joy was to pursue it? To actively contemplate where and how I might discover sources of it?” It was a practice; it was work I had to be willing to do. Like keeping a gratitude journal or reciting bedtime prayers, this took investment and could too easily progress into a chore — one readily dropped for more urgent battles. 

Columbia-Gorge-flower-BTOutside of forest and garden, I caught myself reluctant to seek out delight. What would people think of me cackling over a pigeon that had entered a train compartment as if it meant to ride downtown? Was it weird that I was amused by the uneven patterned brick facade on the highway? What did it say about me that I could be captivated by the flawed graphic of a digital walk sign or fall in love with a booming laugh in a quiet restaurant? So often it felt like the capacity for exuberance was relegated to the youngest of children. They were allowed to bellow out songs while waiting in line; grown-ups smiled indulgently at their nonsensical conversations and afforded them room on the sidewalk to dance. A euphoric adult implied a fool, a delinquent, or someone unhinged. Despite this, could I hopscotch my way down eighth street?

I found it easy to detect joy when the universe worked alongside my ego. Harder to train myself for its existence when I’d missed my bus in the rain, suffered illness or injury, endured rejection and unkindness. In the middle of a harsh week I doubted it was possible to locate delight. Yet, in that instance, someone passed by and said, “Great sunset isn’t it?” It was. I couldn’t deny that glimpse of fiery sky in between buildings made my innards effervesce the same way the prattling stream had done. Alongside my sadness, in the ugliness of my discomfort, I had to acknowledge that kernel of joy. And it felt wrong — as if the two shouldn’t prevail side by side. Yet, they do. I don’t want to forget amid mourning loss and grieving over displacement to take notice of the beauty that still incites pleasure. Because when I stop paying attention, when I don’t search for and admit what enthralls me, I won’t even see that it’s gone. 

ColumbiaGorge-waterfall-BTAt the end of my trek there was a waterfall. Not the tallest or the largest. It was a double cascade framed by mossy rock and green saplings, which poured into the now revealed creek. It was a jewel. I had the urge to share the vision with another person; to wish there was someone next to me I could nudge and whisper, “Look! Look! Do you see what I see? Do you love it the way I love it?” I remembered this when the stranger commented on the sunset. It’s something I don’t do often enough. I’m more likely to cling to my private joys like hoarded treasure, cynical anyone else will participate in my passions. But, perhaps, by bearing witness to my ledger of delights I can make space for more. Maybe, by broadcasting my joys I can grow in the discipline of watching for them as through lines in my life. Perhaps, by giving my joys publicity they can be a stream I return to again and again. Maybe, in the act of joining my delight to that of others, I can find the truest connections.


You don’t need a car to explore Columbia River Gorge, land of Sahaptin and Chinookan speakers in Oregon. Try biking along the Columbia River Highway State Trail. Or take the Columbia River Gorge Express shuttle to one of the many scenic hikes.


What is bringing you joy?

102 replies »

  1. Over the past few months I’ve been trying to recapture joy and I do think we have to work at it – it’s so easy to overlook those little moments of beauty and contentment that can give us joy every day.

    • I so agree with you…it’s easy to get used to the little things that delight us. I’m actively noticing that space now even more than I used to. May you be able to recapture your own sense of joy. Take care.

  2. Wow! beautiful. I love visiting water falls. In my place we have several waterfalls and we can even swim beneath the falls.

    • How marvelous for you! I’ve only swum underneath a waterfall once, but I still remember how thrilling it was. There’s also something so fun about discovering waterfalls as well. Hope this finds you safe and healthy.

  3. I love how you took us along on your thought process as you went on your hike. Especially when you said described finding joy being a practice and work you do. The piece read like a song, with each sentence a lyric adding something more on top of what you already said.

    And I relate to the instinct to hoard private joys like treasures. Still something I like to do but I’m learning to share sometimes. Thanks for sharing and making me think a bit about how I seek delight.

  4. I know for sure that the act of capturing joy in words brings us joy. It’s such an elusive thing, isn’t it? But you do it well. Sharing it is harder 🙂 🙂 Be well, and be aware, hon!

    • Hello Sartenada

      Thank you so very much. Glad you like the waterfall photo, it is one of my favorites and I’m happy I was able to capture the cascade as it looked to me.

      Take care.

  5. I love the concluding sentence of what feels like a meditation on joy, Atreyee. Despite being an introvert I often start conversations with strangers by commenting on beauty or delight. Some people recoil, but most engage, and within those engagements, no matter how brief they may be, pure joy resides. Take good care of yourself.

    • I too try to connect through these types of discussions…for some reason these are the things I think of as conversation starters, which may seem presumptuous or invasive, but feel natural to me. Thank you for your kind words Jolandi. I hope this finds you doing well.

      • All good in my part of the world, Atreyee. I am currently trying to find more time for writing, as that seems to have come to an abrupt halt. This morning at sunset with a cup of coffee on our balcony a new project wiggled itself into my head. I am exploring the possibilities today. Hopefully I can make it work and soon write about it. Stay well!

        • Hooray! How wonderful that your creative sparks are firing for you. That’s always the best feeling: the beginning of a new idea taking shape with so many possibilities ahead. Glad to hear things are well for you.

  6. Hello Atreyee,
    What a treat to view this first thing in the morning 🙂
    Please allow me to echo what has already been said – thank you for sharing yet another thought-provoking post with your beautiful photography. Hope you and all your dear ones continue to stay safe and well.
    All best,

  7. Sounds great, you found some joy and were even surprised about all kinds of ways the joy comes and goes.
    That waterfall is fantastic, ready to paint. I can imagine being there.
    Being in nature and with it is probably one of the best experiences, it is easy to feel relaxed and delighted. I know I am. Although, I cannot even dream about traveling anywhere, I still find a lot of joy in the small backyard space. We have some nature path just a bit out there. I haven’t left my house for quite a while, way longer than pandemic lasts. Basically, I paint places where I want to be.
    I think you’ve explored so many amazing spots and something still takes you even farther. Nobody can ever take away memories and, therefore, good pleasurable experience in the nature is way more valuable than many types of entertainment people are bombarded with.
    Stay safe and cherish these moments of joy!

    • Thank you Inese for such a beautiful wish! These days, like everyone else, I am delighting in the equal joys nearer home and very grateful that where I am there is a bit of nature for me to immerse in. Take care!

  8. Ohh, this is wonderful. I was with you all along in your musings and walk and you did tell me, See that? And I did. In a way this is what the luckiest of us do on our blogs (those who don’t need to sell anything, just spread our joy). This is exactly the feeling I always had when I went to a new place with only dog as company. I often tell him: Look, e’ bello! But still I wish there was another person with me. Not all, mind you. He is better than most. All well to you!

  9. What a beautiful hike filled with moments of joy and delight! I think joy may not be in the chasing, but seeps in when one is open to it. Thank you for your post!

    • I love your idea of letting joy seep in. I definitely don’t believe joy can be chased down, but I think I need to be more intentional about it…pay more attention to where it is. Thank you for a most delightful observation.

  10. Interesting, your question in the present. Of course, most everyone can come up with an answer to, “What brings you joy?” Or even, “What has brought you joy?” But in the moment… it’s something, as you say, we should be working on. This morning is a beautiful day and it’s still not too hot in Las Vegas to have the door open. The birds are happily chirping away, and I need to filter out the electronic undertone of my neighbor’s pool motor. I am also quite pleased that the pomegranate I planted 3 years ago has bright red blooms all over it, which means that I might have my first crop of pomegranates this year. In contemporary fashion, I stepped out and took several pictures of it earlier this morning. The light breeze thwarted me and I assured myself that the bush was still beautiful even if no one would see it on Instagram today.

    • Thank you for noticing that I posed the question in the moment. As you say, it’s too easy to answer the other types of queries. That fleeting sense of deep abiding contentment can only be in the very act of being and your sublime recounting of pomegranate bush and beauty is a perfect fleeting pleasure.

  11. A fascinating read. I do think there is something about sharing a beautiful scene or finding that increases the joy factor. Just the other day I was watching a woodpecker hammering away at a massive telephone pole the other day. Someone riding by on a bike called out ” Looks like a massive project he’s taking on”. It doubled my smile.

    • Hahaha. Yes! I love everything about this example Sue! Such moments exist everywhere and all the time and without paying attention to them I feel we miss out on so much of the complexity and beauty of living.

  12. What a wonderful piece. I found joy in reading your lyrical descriptions and cannot agree more — there is beauty all around us if only we are willing to see it.

    During this time of isolation, we have been given a chance to slow down and take stock of what’s important. Mundane tasks like laundry, cooking, and cleaning, which I used to do mindlessly, now have an elevated importance in my days. I haven’t felt much delight of late, but soon, I’ll be able to go outside in my backyard and take a look at all the perennials that were planted last year. It will be the first spring for them, so I’m excited to see their rebirth.

    In many ways, the human race is experiencing a rebirth as well. My connection to your words gives me hope that we will come out of this difficult period with more appreciation for all that we have.

    Be safe and well,

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