While Walking the Dog at Two A.M.

March 16, 2015

My dog Scout will be 16 years old on Sunday, and as you might expect, she has some health issues. One of them is that she can’t always sleep through the night without having to relieve herself. Her bed is on a chair on my side of the room, so I’m the one who hears her jump down, and I’m the one who slips on her leash and takes her outside. Usually, I try not to wake up all the way so that I’ll stand a chance of going back to sleep, but this morning, at 2 a.m., I found myself looking up at the stars while I waited for Scout. The air felt cool and fresh, Orion’s belt twinkled in the night sky. The neighborhood was silent, peaceful. Scout was quick, and I returned to my warm bed and quickly fell asleep. What could have been (and often is) an annoyance turned into a moment of delight for me.

I’ve been working on going with the flow, relaxing my death grip on life and paying more attention to little moments of delight when they’re presented to me: when my favorite song comes on the radio, when Prudy jumps up on my desk for some attention, when I grab my book and steal some reading time in the afternoon. It’s easy to find delight in things like that—not quite so easy to find delight when woken at 2 a.m., and I admit that I’m more likely to complain about that situation than to recount how lovely the stars look sparkling in the velvety darkness… Just this once, though, I was able to let go and admire the night sky. It was unexpectedly delightful. I’m not sure I would have found it so without my recent focus on delight. Which goes to show, I guess, that you find more of what you focus on.

Has anything unexpectedly delighted you recently?

Oh, sure, sleep NOW...

Heather Allen

Camouflaged in Stillness

March 11, 2015

Introduction by Ted Kooser: Here’s a fine poem by Heather Allen, a Connecticut poet who pays close attention to what’s right under her feet. It may seem ordinary, but it isn’t.


So still at heart,
They respond like water
To the slightest breeze,
Rippling as one body,

And, as one mind,
Bend continually
To listen:
The perfect confidants,

They keep to themselves,
A web of trails and nests,
Burrows and hidden entrances—
Do not reveal

Those camouflaged in stillness
From the circling hawks,
Or crouched and breathless
At the passing of the fox.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©1996 by Heather Allen. Reprinted from Leaving a Shadow, 1996, by permission of Copper Canyon Press, Introduction copyright 2014 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.


It's the Little Things

March 09, 2015

I hope you had as pleasant a weekend as I did. My mother-in-law came for an overnight visit, which gave me an excuse to drop my usual routine and go with the flow. I don’t know about you, but I too often become slave to my schedule and to-do list (out of fear that I’ll slack off and get too far behind to catch up!) instead of staying in the moment and doing what feels right. This weekend, I relaxed more, spent time talking with Mom and followed my instincts regarding the things I did.  Despite “losing” an hour to Daylight Saving Time, I ended up having the most delight-ful weekend, as well as accomplishing the following:

Ate at a new local restaurant we’ve been meaning to try for breakfast Sunday.

Repotted plants. A few of my orchids needed attention, and I had a new rosemary plant to take out of its peat pot as well as some tiny basil seedlings that needed transplanting.

Trimmed catnip leaves to dry for Prudy (and a few of my friends who also have catnip-loving cats).

Cleaned and refilled the birdbath.

Refilled the squirrel bird feeder outside my office window.

Bathed Scout and washed her dog bed.

Took Prudy on a supervised wander in the back yard.

Picked some volunteer Florida Everglades tomatoes (and ate them).

Watched an episode of The Gilmore Girls from a library DVD while I planned my week.

Sorted through some old magazines, keeping the few pages I wanted and letting the rest go.

So often it’s the little things, the simple pleasures, that add up to happy days—both now and in the future. Even though I did only what I felt like doing, I still got many things done. And I’ll enjoy the results, when my orchids bloom, when we eat the fresh herbs, and when I watch the squirrels birds on the feeder.

What did you do this weekend?

Baron Baptiste

Being a Yes

March 04, 2015

“The most empowered place we can be is not, ‘I’ve got it all figured out.’ It is to be brave enough to ask the questions over and over, ‘What am I not seeing that’s limiting me? What do I need to see that’s new for me?’ We’re afraid to ask that, because we’re worried about what we might have to confront and deal with as a result. But that’s what frees us: facing what we need to face, giving up what we need to give up, and being a yes for what’s next.”


Daring to Delight

March 02, 2015

I’m determined to do a better job of living my word of the year in 2015—why not when it’s such a nice one? So I plan to review my progress every month or so, and see how much delight I’m allowing into my life. Since I am the “gatekeeper of delight,” so to speak, here are three ways I’m exploring the concept:

Instead of blindly rushing through my day, I have made deliberate attempts to slow down both my movements and my thoughts so I can pay better attention to the details. That first sip of coffee in the morning—delicious! How relaxed and strong my body feels after yoga class. The deep pleasure of climbing into bed at the end of the day. I’m blessed with more delightful moments than I recognized.

It can feel really selfish to seek out delight, but I am letting go of the guilt feelings that arise when I “indulge” myself. Last month, I made the mundane more delightful by picking up a cinnamon dolce latte and a new book to read while I waited for an oil change. I played music every chance I got—using my iPod while vacuuming and mopping and listening to Pandora while working in my office. I’m also making sure I take short breaks during the day, rewarding myself when I complete a task, especially if it’s one I don’t enjoy. When faced with any choice now, the go-to question is, “Does this delight me?”

I’m also working on becoming more mindful of ways to share delight with other people, through acts of kindness, thoughtful words, or sharing something (book, movie, website, food!) that will bring pleasure to someone else. There’s much delight in sharing delight!

So far, the first life lesson “delight” has given me is this: It’s OK to enjoy my life. To take delight in simple pleasures and everyday adventures. I don’t need to feel guilty or uncomfortable because I have such a good life when so many people do not. It has been repeatedly pointed out to me that my suffering or unhappiness doesn’t help anyone else. In fact, it can add to the unhappiness of those who care about me. Instead, I dare to feel more delight, more happiness, and to spread it to others every chance I get.

When and how do you dare to feel delight?