Gratitude: at a time when my heart is often cracked yet again by the news, and when much of our country seems to be mad with hatred, it’s hard sometimes to remember how much there is to be grateful for.
Even though I keep a gratitude journal, noting down my many thanks has been less frequent than other times. And my ‘daily’ pages are … well, let’s say that weekly would be an improvement!
In other words? I’ve been grieving, not grateful-ing. But a long-time tradition I believe in is using each day of November to record something I’m grateful for. Making the month of Thanksgiving truly a month of gratitude. I’m a bit late off the mark this year, but here goes with a catch-up list:
Today, this very moment, what I’m grateful for is autumn — my favourite season. Just this week the trees in our town ignited. Seriously — there is incandescent scarlet, saffron, & chartreuse. A deep winey burgundy, and the sombre backdrop of greeny-black evergreens. It’s a lush tapestry of gorgeous.
Weaving in & out of this are birds, like red, blue, grey, black, even orange threads of bright movement. The four blue jay brothers are squawking at me to fill the sunflower feeder, and a nuthatch vies with a red-bellied woodpecker at the suet block. It’s a never-fail antidote to the tragedy of so many human interactions.
And after a night with my astonishingly wonderful elder grandson, I’m once again thanking the universe that my beloved & I took a leap of faith and moved half-way across the country to spend more time w/ our two grandsons. The elder a perpetual movement machine, running on peanut butter, jelly, apples, & tickle marathons. The younger one endless wide-eyed wonder, enthralled by even the fan above him (his own personal mobile!). You flat can’t have ‘quality’ time w/out plenty of quantity.
I’m still surprised at how many faces in this small town are becoming familiar to me. Just today, when I went to vote, I recognised 2 women exiting the polling station. Where I know them from eludes me, but they were faces I knew I SHOULD know! I’ve never lived in a small American town, so much of this new chapter is totally new to me.
The power of landscape to awe me is another gratitude. Maybe I just took the sprawling skies of Oklahoma for granted, no longer seeing them as beautiful, but the mountains here — the vistas that open up like a kaleidescope of 15 greens, 5 browns, and uncountable shards of orange, wine, russet & pumpking — send me into stunned, breathless silence. They’re that incredible.
How can I NOT be grateful?
If, like me, the evil we do to each other, the refusal to own our own responsibility to change things, and the powerlessness we feel as individuals is overwhelming you, I’m prescribing autumn. Get outside — even if it’s chilly. Maybe especially if it’s chilly! Blow the doldrums over the hazy horizon. Take a cup of tea (I’m drinking Harney’s new London Fog — how appropriate an autumn tea is THAT?!), and just watch the season unfurl in front of you. If you’re very lucky, maybe the birds will even talk to you. And for that, we’re always grateful.
Today I sat down to afternoon tea, as I do many days. I often start the day w/a cappuccino, which I make myself. But in the afternoon — especially one where I’ve been doing a lot of this & that — I want tea. In a pretty teapot, swathed in the perfect tea cosy. Set on a tray with a plate of some small treat. In other words? An oasis of calm & peace in an otherwise hectic day.
Since I had a pumpkin scone left over from a foray into town to look at lamps for our new house, I made plain tea — a nice English breakfast. With milk & Demerara sugar cubes. And a small pot of strawberry jam to go on the slathering of butter I swiped over the scone pieces. Then I sat down at the breakfast table, in the slant afternoon light, & inhaled tea steam. And peace.
Tea is such a peace-maker. Probably a peace-keeper, as well. For me, however, it brings in its fragrant leaves the reminder that life is best when we breathe. ???? Slooooowly. Deeply. And inhaling tea is as good a way to practice that as any!
This next afternoon, you should find a mug (or a cup & saucer), and pour some boiling water over a tea bag, or a scoop of loose tea in a strainer. Add a dollop of honey or raw sugar. Milk is good, if the tea is suitable for milk. If not? Just stick w/ honey. Hold that mug of peace & comfort up to your face & breathe. Let the warmth remind you of sunlight, and the smell of leaves startled by the hot water take you back to childhood tea parties, when life was far less complicated.
It’s a good practice, and one I give thanks for daily.
As I noted yesterday, I’ve already voted. And, I’ve also taken myself off FB until after the election. The result? A bright expanse much more contented time. Today, I sat on the deck, as I do most clement mornings, and wrote in my morning pages. I do this most days, and while I don’t always make my 4 small pages goal, I do write. Almost daily. And I have for a few months now, as well as sporadically in the past.
What I noticed today was a lightening of heart. Really: something about being done w/ this whole election year (& yes: I know there will be fallout after the election, but it’s DIFFERENT) is so freeing. Just because… I already got it over with!
So what I’m grateful for today is just that: I’m done! Whoohoo & praise the universe! I don’t have to read the editorials in case I missed something. I don’t have to listen to weak arguments (or what passes for one) from folks who think they may change my mind. I don’t have to even THINK about this crap! How cool is THAT??
And I wonder: how many of the things I dread, in my otherwise damn near perfect life, could be dismissed if I just did something? You know — instead of dreading & whining about it? Just a thought.
That’s my gratitude today: I’m grateful for freedom from the vitriol this election has filled the media with — both social and un-. I’m grateful for a space to breathe, and get on w/ my ordinary (but very precious) human life. It’s such a Buddhist realisation, isn’t it? That action bring peace. Now, if I can just remember this epiphany…????!
Today I’m giving thanks for a two-hour line I stood in. Seriously: I stood in line for TWO HOURS to vote early. I can’t even imagine what lines will be like on Nov. 8th! Sheesh!
And you know what? I’m sooo grateful! For early voting, so I can put this entire contentious, heart-breaking, head-numbing election year behind me. I’m soooo ready!
In truth, I really am grateful for the voting rights I have. Hardwon by women decades gone. Suffrage has always been a controversial right, for women, for people of colour, for non-landed gentry. It’s what has marked this country as a democracy, since before the Boston tea party.
So today, my gratitude is for a state (even though it’s verrry red) that honours voting rights. We haven’t (at least not yet) enacted laws like some states, that impinge on the rights of the poor, the non-white, the non-privileged among us, to vote. And I’m beyond grateful for that.
Give thanks for your right to vote, folks. Men & women over the past centuries have died so you can help choose our leaders. And then? Get out there & exercise it!!
Today is day 2 of giving thanks month (more commonly known as Thanksgiving month… ????). It takes an entire month just to scratch the surface of all this life offers!
One of my ‘superficial’ — but not really! — gratitudes is a washing machine. Seriously: I told my husband, before we married to move to his new job in Algeria, that I would NOT wash our laundry by hand. And I didn’t: I found the only laundromat in the city of Alger, and spent one day a week doing laundry. IN A MACHINE, the way the universe intended!
Each week I schlepped our laundry in the carpool we shared w/ ‘the bachelors,’ 4 single guys. Since the care was a tiiiiny Renault, putting the 6 of us in it, as well as a week’s laundry, was no small accomplishment. I would parse out our linens, our darks & lights, into the small washing machines, & visit w/ the woman who owned the laundromat. At lunch, I would leave my laundry (with her permission) & walk a mile or more downhill the Didouche Mourad (the main drag) to my husband’s office. We’d have lunch, and then I’d climb the many many steps back uphill to the laundromat. I’d bring a book from the Consulate library, and read until it was time to go home. The guys would pick me up, we’d cram the neatly folded clean laundry into the boot of the R4, and home we’d go.
I have no idea how many THOUSANDS of loads of laundry I’ve done in my life. Suffice to say, I will remember laundry as a defining element of parenthood. Beginning w/ infancy, into sports clothes, then the clothes that come home w/ college kids… I’m not kidding: I sooo hate laundry that when my husband was working overseas, we figured out the time by how many laundry days it would be before we saw each other again.
Don’t take your 1st world blessings for granted, folks. I think of Saliha, who lived across from in that long ago city of Algers. With 10 living children (not including 4 still birth/miscarriages), she did the laundry for ALL OF THEM by hand. In her kitchen sink, across the ventilator shaft from my own. We would stand beside our windows as she plunged garment after garment into hot water. Visiting to while away women’s work.
So no, I almost never take my appliances for granted! And certainly not my washing machine! Giving thanks for it is, in a small way, honouring the millions of women throughout the world who have so little when I have so much. Which is another thing to be grateful: my life of plenty. Including a washer, dryer, and so many other ‘ordinary’ conveniences…
Today is the first day of one of my favourite months, Thanksgiving month. Which means it’s also time for day 1 of the ‘giving thanks’ challenge: finding something each day to be grateful for. It’s very easy — especially in an election year! — to be depressed. But really? There is SO much to give thanks for.
I’m giving thanks today for the macro: my healthy, happy, human life, as the Dalai Lama says. Do my knees creak & ache non-stop? Yep. But … they work. They get me from place A to place B. Are my former pianist fingers no longer long & slender, but gnarled & twisted as my grandmother’s became? Yep to that one, too. But they can wield pruning shears, measure tea into a strainer, and brush a little boy’s hair after bathtime.
And yes, I wish I could still run, and dance for hours on end. Who doesn’t?? Still, in the grand scheme of things, I’m very very fortunate to be pretty healthy. Which is an amazing gift, and one that I almost never take for granted. As the sister of two breast cancer survivors, I well know that life offers no guarantees. As the daughter of an Alzheimer’s mother, and the grand-niece & granddaughter of several more Alzheimer’s sufferers, I try hard to greet each day w/ the enthusiasm it deserves. Maybe not as fervent at 6:30 a.m., readying for a trip…, but most of the time!
Today, why don’t you begin your own countdown to November 30th? What inspires you to give thanks today? Looking at even the most simple of lives, is there sunlight? Are there late fall monarch butterflies? Share what it is that brings you joy this month!