Fierce Pleasure in Things Being Themselves

January 7, 2019

“I do not think there is anyone who takes quite such a fierce pleasure in things being themselves as I do.  The startling wetness of water excites and intoxicates me; the fieriness of fire, the steeliness of steel, the unutterable muddiness of mud.”   –G.K. Chesterton, in a letter to his wife Frances


The rain in Southeast Texas has been copious and relentless.  It was dark the other morning when I under my umbrella stepped off a curb into the street and encountered the unutterable muddiness of mud.  One foot zoomed away from me.  By some miracle I recovered, and did not fall.  Quoth I:  “Whoa.” For now the rain has hit the pause button. But on day three of sun, water is still standing. So while glorying in the fresh clear air, I’m also watching where I step.


My friend and former high school classmate Ted is in Moscow, teaching at United Methodist Theological Seminary.  This morning I found he’d posted pictures of Russian snow—‘Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone.’ He also imparted news, half-remembered by me, that Russian Orthodox Christians observe January 7 as Christmas day.  So, Christmas greetings to my friend. I’m proud of you.


In September 2017 I was staying with Ted and his wife at their house in Dallas until such time as the water came back on in Beaumont.  They were gracious to take me in and tuck me into their ‘hurricane suite.’   Bonus for me: one day I witnessed his joy at receiving  a new camera he’d ordered.  That very night he employed it to capture a stunning portrait of a full moon. “The glory of God is a human being, fully alive.”  Merry Christmas, Ted!


Fierce pleasure in things being themselves:  I continue to exult in the progress of my granddaughter, and she continues to exult in learning the world.  On New Years Day she turned one.  A few days later there was a birthday party for her, at her house. The house and yard were full of thirty celebrants, young and old.  It got a little boisterous, in a good kind of way.  At the center, our Amelia.  At her center, a kind of perplexed serenity, a gorgeous calm:  “This is an odd kind of day.  A bit much going on for someone as young as me. I could be reactive about it.  But I choose to study it.”  And that’s what she did.


Two images: presented with a small cake, she dipped a delicate investigative finger, as a good scientist should, and transferred a bit of icing to her palate.  Hmmm, pretty good. And so, another dab or too, and she was done.  Wish I had that restraint!


[the moment captured, by grandmother Mary]

On the grass in her back yard, her focus was not so much on the heartfelt gifts surrounding her as the crinkly tissue paper and fascinating bags and boxes.  And oh, such a wealth of dead leaves!  Madame scientist picked up one after another, turning each this way and that, studying the texture, crushing, opening tiny palm to see the result.  And yes, she did try to eat a couple.

Author: Phoebe Dishman

Phoebe H. Dishman was born and raised in Beaumont, Texas. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother. An essayist and poet, she teaches adult Sunday school, compiles a monthly prayer calendar, edits the Big Thicket Association quarterly bulletin, and keeps a keen eye and ear open for birds.

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