No one will argue that this has been quite a year. It’s been a topsy turvy mess of sickness, misinformation, uncertainty, and deliberate malfeasance by people that should know better. It has caused many of us to spend sleepless nights looking out dark windows onto an increasingly desolate landscape of ignorance and wrongful distortions falling like leaves from the silhouettes of menacing trees.
We are mourning the loss of a country and cultural generosity we thought we knew and are astonished by the willful dishonesty and manipulation we see all around us. Sanity, it seems, has left the building.
And yet, through all of it, I keep finding reasons to be grateful. There are family and friends, of course, as well as work colleagues and neighbors. There is also my cozy home, my sweet pets, a stocked larder, indoor plumbing, and central heating. Mostly, however, I am finding peace in being outdoors where the sounds of trees in the wind and the sight of birds flying overhead centers me in a reality no screen or talking head can pierce or disrupt.
It’s the little daily things that keep me going these days; the wisps of fluffy seeds wafting by, the mourning doves cooing on a branch on my morning walk. There are the stars in a dark new moon sky and the constancy of waves upon the shore. There is the harsh wind, the warm sun and the driving rain. All have their place, and for all I am grateful.
This week is one we are used to celebrating with family and friends. We want to smile and laugh, lift our glasses in toasts, and even the non-huggers amongst us may want to give and receive a rib-crushing hug from someone we haven’t seen since early this year. And yet, we have been asked to not do that, to celebrate in small groups, our own pods of safety as it were. And so, there is now a bittersweet element to the holidays, a sadness that seems to be coming out as anger and resentment when people are out in public and asked to behave like civilized human beings. Not all people, but enough to make me cringe when I see someone lashing out at a cashier or store manager. Manners seem to have flown out the window altogether these days. I find myself feeling grateful for every civil and polite exchange.
I’m also spending more and more time away from the possibilities of such exchanges. There are blue jays to laugh at as they go about their bossy business and bright red holly berries to appreciate before the birds gobble them down. There are enough deer and rabbits, foxes and coyotes and big goofy raccoons to populate my world in a peaceful, harmonious way. The fox and hawk hunt for their living, but they do so to survive, not for pleasure or greed. I can feel badly for the dove or rabbit taken but understand that without their sacrifice, the hawk and coyote would starve.
There’s a balance to nature, a sense and sensibility that settles me on days when I feel overwhelmed and a bit rocky. There is a rhythm to the seasons, the weeks, the days that I can tune into without thinking. My breath and heartbeat align naturally with the pulsing of the communal breaths and heartbeats of a million creatures. I remember that I am a tiny cog in a wheel of life that is beyond my humble comprehension. These are the real things, the things that keep me in check when the world around me seems crazy and off balance.
This is a week to remember what we are grateful for. We can’t let the craziness stop us from realizing our good fortune in spite of all the bad news, restrictions and changes to a lifestyle we’d become accustomed to. If we do, then the bad stuff wins. It’s time to channel our inner blue jays, chickadees, whales, foxes, rabbits and sunflowers. There is much to be grateful for in this world. Sometimes we have to get up and walk away from the media, the yelling, the accusing, and the general bad humor that is surrounding us.
Getting outside has many benefits and we can be thankful that we live in such a beautiful, inspiring place. For those that can’t get outdoors, for whatever reasons, turn off all the media, pull a chair up to a window and watch the wind blow through the branches, the birds chatter in the bushes and the antics of the ever present squirrels.
There is much to be grateful for in each day so let’s decide to concentrate on those things. Imagine a world where we expressed our thankfulness every day instead of our frustrations. I know, a crazy thought. Let’s try it anyway. Thank you for reading my columns. I appreciate knowing you’re out there, cheering on nature and the earth.