The Discipline of Delight | Sojourners

The Discipline of Delight

Holding onto wonder in the face of loss.
The outline of a gift box made from twigs, vines, and leaves
Illustration by Matt Chase

IN JULY, my children and I crouched at the edge of the continent along a trail spitting hikers onto Kalaloch Beach 1 in Olympic National Park. Eyes at dirt level, we marveled at a hidden-in-sight banana slug, oozing exquisite slime and swiveling its tentacles. Off Interstate 90 in Montana, we held our breath as a bald eagle swooped over a deer grazing just across the fence from our car. Throughout our epic road trip from Illinois to the Pacific Northwest, I kept saying, “Wow, but ...”

My wonder was tinged with a sense of impending loss. With fires devouring unthinkable amounts of forest just over the next mountain range and smoke clouding the skies for 1,500 miles, the beauty in front of me seemed to be slipping away. In the end, I took home more pain than joy.

Many of us live with this bone-deep grief over what we have lost in the natural world, and with anticipatory grief over what is about to be lost. It is right to feel this deeply, to lament and give voice to our pain in community. And then what? Grief, pain, and anger can move us to action, but they only carry us so far. To sustain our work, we need joy.

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