Sharing a Bag
On the mornings I’m feeling alive enough to do so, I rise early, put the kettle on until it sings just for me, then cozy up on the couch with a steaming cup of tea and my books. My stack leans heavy with natural science, biographies, and travel literature, and I like to have a book of poetry and another of short essays within reach. How much time I have left before I’m due at work, or more likely, how much tea is left in my mug, dictates whether I venture into another chapter or take a quick jaunt into rhythm ‘n’ rhyme or a delightful short essay.
I love this practice. It’s a warm, gentle transition into the busy-ness of the day that is yet to come. One of the books I’ve fallen in love with over the past year is itself about a practice: The Book of Delights by Ross Gay. It’s a collection of short essays in which Gay sets off on a yearlong journey to write one essay every day detailing something he found particularly delightful. Similar to recording daily gratitude’s, the idea is that the more time Gay spends time thinking and writing about delight, the more attuned to delight he’ll be, and the more delight he will experience in his day-to-day simply by paying closer attention to little things that would have otherwise gone unnoticed and unappreciated.
With essays like “Kombucha in a Mid-Century Glass”, “Pulling Carrots”, and “Joy is Such a Human Madness” (my personal favorite), Gay playfully walks readers through the difficulties of life as a human, and for him, life as a black man, while delighting in nature and small gestures of kindness between strangers.
On this particular morning, I read the essay “Sharing a Bag.” Gay describes how he adores witnessing two people sharing a bag: any two people sharing the responsibility of carrying some kind of bag full of any kind of thing – clothing, food, or otherwise. He delights in that it is a mostly unnecessary act: it would be far easier for an adult to carry a bag alone, rather than give the other handle to a small child, who makes the going a little slower, a little more cumbersome.
For Gay, it’s the tenderness, the togetherness that should be noticed. That a person would slow down or modify their step for another, so they move in unison, is a delightful form of everyday magic. “Everything that needs doing – getting groceries and or laundry home – would get done just fine without this meager collaboration. But the only thing that needs doing, without it, would not.”
This year has been strange and difficult, and we’ve been separated from each other in so many ways it’s almost unbearable. We’ve been surprised by our own behaviors – both good and bad. We are finding new ways to fend for ourselves and our families, struggling to make sense in a barrage of change. And we’re doing it, because we are resilient and capable.
We’re learning new ways to work together, too. But maybe, we’re not learning. Maybe we’re remembering, and truly digging in to what it means to cooperate – the turning back in time we’ve been yearning for. And by that I mean, going back to the beginning, simply to remember the practice of moving forward, alongside each other. I’ll hold this handle, if you hold the other.
When I look around our Co-op community, I see plenty of everyday magic – someone shopping for an elderly neighbor; Co-op members donating their dividends to feed the hungry; a Human Resources department that understands we love pizza; and you, wearing that hot, stuffy mask for a stranger. Listening to co-workers and customers share their hardships, no matter how dire, they usually conclude with something like, “But it’s so nice to know I’m not the only one. It’s hard for everyone.” Or rather, I’m so glad I’m sharing this bag with someone else.
Like all practices, it’s easy to get distracted, to get disrupted from the rhythms that make us whole and keep us sane. Some mornings I opt for the snooze button. Ross Gay confesses to skipping many days of essays. And sometimes we forget that together really is better. Our desire to keep practicing, is what I find delightful.