The Marvel of Life’s Abundance

There is something tender and beautiful about pausing our sometimes relentless motion to give thanks. Of all the incalculable gifts in life, here is a selection that hints at the largesse of the whole.

I’m grateful…

For generosity of spirit—sharing what we have with strangers during times of gravest need or with coworkers who’ve run out of sugar, giving one another the benefit of the doubt while in traffic or strong disagreement.

For selflessness—driving fifty miles back to the gas station where the favorite teddy bear was left, letting someone in a rush go first at the grocery store, serving in the military.

For those people—or animals, plants, places—that shape our hearts simply by the quality of their presence in the world, especially for those who have passed on this year.

For conversations—the way they wind around and draw out our thoughts, make them elastic, give them new form and in the process give us new understanding.

For ideas—on one hand the most insubstantial of all things and on the other hand the foundation of all the realities we humans have created on this Earth.

For the Earth, this astonishing crucible of life.

For the “concrete immediacies” of our lives, as Jim Finley would call them—the couch that is comfy enough to fall asleep on, the cat who curls up in the crook of my legs and purrs as if he were in a purring contest while I’m nodding off.

For existence, for the completely gratuitous and freely given nature of that initial “Let it be.”

For love, the very warp and weft of our lives, the material of our being that opens us into relationship and makes us more whole the less we hold onto ourselves.

Happy Thanksgiving. May all your cups overflow.

This Gift We Are Living

Thanksgiving is probably the wisest of our national holidays. President’s Day can’t quite transform our outlook or way of approaching the world the way gratitude does.

Perhaps gratitude sparks such a profound shift because it puts us in touch with the truth that every moment and every molecule of this life are freely and mysteriously given to us. Here are a few of the innumerable things for which my heart breathes a deep thank you:

The repetitive and enduring nature of patience—all the times we choose not to take a mistake too seriously, every time we remember that people are more important than outcomes, each hopeful beginning again, the infinite grounding of the world in Mercy.

The expanse of Reality—the Earth, the sun, the Milky Way traveling through space at 1.3 million miles per hour, the billions of other galaxies shaped like ours, the personal imperfections we will never overcome, our incalculable and inexplicable generosity toward other beings, the presence of God in all of it.

The daily amazements—the cat’s ability to jump onto the countertop, the whir of the hummingbird’s wings, the welcome from the giant sycamore tree near the University Union, the refreshing burst of a good laugh, the reliable supply of food in the grocery store coupled with the economic means to purchase it.

This graced and charged existence we share—this breathing, this intertwining of lives, this shaping one another, this distinct being here amid the myriad possibilities that could have arisen.

The people who bless my life—family, friends, coworkers, writers who died years ago and left their thoughts behind, restaurant servers, my mechanic, you reading this.

Happy Thanksgiving. May we all live in the wonder of this gift of existing.

Yes! Thank You!

This is one of my favorite blog entries of the year—the one in which I choose a few of the myriad things that inspire me to say “Yes!” and list them out. Here is this year’s offering:

I am grateful that there are so many ways to say this same thing:

  • “Love is our origin, love is our ground, and love is our destiny” (Jim Finley).
  • Everything comes forth from God, is an example of God, and returns to God (my paraphrase of Richard Rohr’s paraphrase of St. Bonaventure in his book Eager to Love).
  • “Love is the essential structure of reality, the metaphysical basis of all that exists, the eternal pattern of the universe” (Ilia Delio describing Bede Griffiths’ approach in her book Christ in Evolution).

I am grateful chocolate-covered carrot bits are not a thing.

I am grateful for transformations of all kinds:

  • the bursting forth of flower buds into full blown blossoms
  • the changing and falling of leaves
  • the caterpillar’s chrysalis and the emerging butterfly
  • sobriety
  • the breaking open of our hearts in the presence of suffering

I am grateful for how often what I’m reading is grammatically correct and perfectly proofread, all things considered.

I am grateful for generosity of heart in so many forms:

  • parents rising in the middle of the night to tend their sick children
  • people sending money across the globe to those they will never meet
  • people smiling at others for no particular reason
  • animals caring for other animals in all those videos careening through Facebook feeds
  • plants growing to support all life on Earth

I am grateful for imagination—in a world that has never been at peace, the concept still exists.

I am grateful for the Sunday comics and beautifully illustrated children’s books.

I am grateful for all the people who so grace my life with love, perspective, good humor, and, of course, good food on a daily basis, including everyone reading these words. Happy Thanksgiving!

Note: I will be on vacation next week. May everyone be well fed.

Thanks for This and That

Whoever decided we should set aside time every year to pause and indulge in a little gratitude was really, really smart. Here is my annual list of a few of this year’s gifts.

I am grateful for how easy my life is and for knowing that life is so much more than ease.

I am grateful that practically the entire wealth of human knowledge is at our fingertips for the price of an Internet connection and that all the knowledge in the world is not worth as much as the smile of a child or an old friend.

I am grateful for moments of exquisite beauty and for the strange truth that, if we pay attention, the welling up of creation can be found even in those places we might usually consider least beautiful.

I am grateful for meals at fancy restaurants and for scrambled eggs on nights when I haven’t gone shopping.

I am grateful for all the ways to stay in touch with friends and family who are distant and for the times we gather in person.

I am grateful for times of high excitement and great good cheer and for times of quiet and rest.

I am grateful for old friends and those I’ve just met.

I am grateful that things pass away, that the seasons turn, that new life comes into being and that we are all, somehow, always both letting go and becoming new.

And of course I am grateful for chocolate.

Note: The blog and I will be on vacation next week. Happy Thanksgiving!

Giving Thanks

Here’s something to aspire to: “For all that has been, thank you. For all that is to come, yes” (Dag Hammarskjöld, second United Nations Secretary-General and Nobel Peace Prize recipient). I’m not there yet, but this holiday is good practice.

This year’s selection from the cornucopia of things that make me grateful I’m alive:

Cake batter—and cookie batter and icing of course and the way all of the above cling to the insides of bowls and the edges of beaters demanding that we lick them off.

Cats—because when looked at rationally they are an odd choice for a companion but when looked at non-rationally they are cute and funny and cuddly, at least when they’re not attacking you. Plus they purr. You really can’t beat purring; that was evolutionary genius.

People who make things by hand—weavers, woodworkers, drywall hangers, bread bakers, especially those amazing folk who can take scraps of this and that and presto, there’s a table or a fancy dress.

Home—a sense of belonging, a feeling of safety and peace, an awareness of being loved.

Monastics—monks and nuns of all religions, lay people who are exceptionally contemplative, everyone who holds that sacred space in the midst of daily life. They are doing it for the rest of us.

Camping—all types, car, backpacking, anything that involves sleeping on the ground, frying your toast in a pan, waking up to the smell of pine trees and going to bed having just been reminded of how vast the Milky Way is.

Moments—the ones that take my breath away, the ones filled with laughter, the peaceful ones, the silent ones, the shared ones.

Friends and family—without whom, none of the above would be as fun or loving or wonderful.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Life is Good

‘Tis the season to remember everything that makes this life fabulous. My gratitude list for 2012—partial of course:

Colors, all types, from Rothko’s squares to that electric turquoise fashionable in purses a season or two back to the jacaranda tree’s purple flowers.

The days Elm St. is inexplicably empty allowing me to catch the van despite the the space-time continuum’s attempts to thwart me.

The way that people’s creativity flourishes in different mediums—paint, clothing, conversation, leadership, gardens.

The rotations of nature, from seasonal changes to a single day’s palette of light, morning’s yellow, speaking of promise, distinct from evening’s paler shade of repose.

Food—that it exists, that we are required to eat it, that one of its subcategories is chocolate, that said subcategory correlates with production of Nobel Prize winners. I am not making this up. Read the article on chocolate and Nobel Prizes. Thanks to my aunt for passing on this essential knowledge.

The times I remember to pray instead of attempting to solve something far beyond my powers.

Quirky things—people, movies, my cat, possibly all cats.

The astonishing difference a smile can make in someone’s day.

The times I remember to have a sense of humor about myself.

People—the ones who are passionate; the ones who do jobs I never could, such as home healthcare worker or probation officer; the ones who are incalculably kind; the ones who love me and tell me I’m doing a wonderful job of being human on those days I can’t find that belief anywhere in my universe.

The stunning abundance of all these things in the lives of so many. Here’s hoping that this time next year, those who lack food or love or the chance to express their creativity are sharing in the abundance.

Get Your Gratitude On

To get us all in the mood for the holiday, here is a brief selection from the long list of things I’m grateful for.

CornucopiaThe sense-able: the sun’s warmth on a cold day, the contour of a rock pressing through the sole of my shoe, my sister’s laugh, the impossible whir of hummingbird wings, the oboe playing out over the rest of the orchestra, cat purrs, the smell of freshly-baked bread, the scent of the air after a good rain, the way a warm chocolate chip cookie melts around your tongue, the taste of fried squash blossoms or a perfect peach, the clarity of the milky way on a cloudless mountain night.

The less tangible: early morning silences, the lift of my spirit when a hawk circles, the way a wildflower or sunlight through fall leaves calls me back to the present, the impatience of tree buds ready to burst into life, the satisfaction of a well-placed word or well-struck soccer ball, the way a line of poetry can grab me somewhere between my heart and my bones, the anticipation of leaving on a journey, the comfort of returning home, the moments of feeling all is right in my pocket of the world.

The often overlooked: running water, hot running water, cleaning machines of all kinds, well-maintained roads, airplanes, laughter, peaceful sleep, dentists, antibiotics.

The essentials: so much food I have never once worried about going hungry, clean drinking water, shelter, heat, work, freedom to relate to God as I choose, time to create and the freedom to decide the form of that creation.

The even more essentials, a.k.a. family, friends, and blog readers: your encouragement, your support, your humor, your patience, your forgiveness, your generosity, your love, you.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Joyful feasting.