The Gratitude Jar
Gordon and I spent our New Year’s Eve alone together, close by a warm singing fire in the fireplace, made bright and cheerful with wood from trees cut down by Gordon and family, and split by Gordon. The log splitter and wood pile are hard by the front door and it is greatly satisfying work, to lever a ton of pressure down onto a hardened oak log and hear the loud satisfying crack as it splits apart, exposing a keen, fine grain and small pieces that will burn quickly and warmly. This is an activity that brings pleasure and warms twice, one that I enjoy doing too.
2013 was an intense year to review for us on this last eve of the year. The hardest year of our lives. The stunning loss of our oldest son, Gary, in March, then my off and on drama with heart surgery, followed by my near dying from hemorrhaging afterward and long time in the hospital. A dramatic gathering the clan, further health challenges, and just before Christmas ending the year with a hard fall and blow to the head resulting in a concussion for me, and for Gordon the news that he had the same aortic valve stenosis that I did and similar surgery would be recommended! Along with some dicey issues with his eyes. There we sat,in our age beset organisms and what to look forward to? Looking forward to the dying and death process?
Well, that is an odd combination of words, you don’t ‘look forward’ to death generally. So let’s say that is what was looming up there on the horizon ahead of us was when the transition would come, with all the unknowns of how /when /where and how many more trips into hospitals to keep trying to repair the old bodies that have declared their mortal finiteness.
So we gathered perspective, bit by bit, like putting precious items in a basket, one by one to reexamine the gifts and wonder of each. And there was much. We still have each other and together can manage most of our needs. We are still in our beloved mountain home, in a house built by our children that is so beautiful and comforting to us. The children are admirable, each shouldering their lives with courage, determination, many strong gifts and capacities, and valuing their roles as parents as a top priority, as we did. We can drive, walk, see pretty well, we can read (oh, blessed capacity!) cook, and enjoy beauty.
These reminders of what is going right are needed daily. One awakes each morning to a check in with the stubborn ‘donkey’(Brother donkey, as St. Francis used to call his body). All too often the donkey is not wanting to get out and go that day. The art form becomes steering around the reluctant beast with coffee, little rests, some exercises, an arsenal of vitality-filled supplements (or so the labels say) staring out the window, the afternoon nap, to see if we can pacify our dear old bodies into some joie d vivre and buoyancy. (“Are you kidding?”, proclaim the forces of gravity, “who do you think you are a twenty year old?”) See saw goes the game!
We resolved that tangible further reminders of all that we are blessed with was called for and came up with the ‘Gratitude jar’. Gordon has even, with his boundless creativity in the practical realm, added a little tandem attachment to hold the slips of paper upon which we write those gratitudes. When the stresses and despairs pile up, we can walk to the table, and write down one of the multitude of blessings bestowed on us in every moment. In reality, inexhaustible store of blessings with which we are upheld each day of our existence, both seen and unseen, the countless hands that have been there for the daily food, the chain of work and will that created all we see and touch. The beautiful world of nature, the abundant matrix of all that upholds us that has been endowed by man and God.
When things seem too intense, we can take some of the gratitudes out and read them, and ponder and remember and renew. New Year’s Eve, 2014, here together at White Feather Ranch. A kiss, a sigh, looking back with thankfulness, and looking forward with hope and faith.
We’ll take a ‘Cup of Kindness” (gratitude) Yet, for Auld Lang Syne.