Wednesday
Nov302016

Thankful Thursday: Small Things


My mother said every persimmon has a sun  

inside, something golden, glowing,  

warm as my face. 

 
— from Persimmons, a poem by Yi-Young Lee

 

Because attention attracts gratitude and gratitude expands joy, it's time for Thankful Thursday.

This week I am thankful for persimmons. I'm late to discovery — just last year I tasted my first — and now again, this week. A gift. A seasonal surprise.

Lately gratitude comes in small bits: a slice of pie, the relief of sun, a long walk. 

I search for big moments but experience no epiphanies. A friend and I once laughed about people who use God to justify dramatic actions, like quitting their jobs or traveling to foreign countries to "save" others. Why doesn't God call me? I'd half-joke. I've got a phone and a passport, why don't I get a lightning bolt or a grand vision? 

 But I'm not a grand kind of person. I cocoon to soft music, books, quiet. God meets people like me in the library or in other quiet people. 

"You can't tell people enough that you love them," a friend said the other day, and it seemed the truest thing I'd heard in weeks. Maybe that was God talking. Sometimes I don't hear, or don't listen, and I miss these moments, small as they are. Big as they are.  

 

It's Thankful Thursday. What are you thankful for today? 


Tuesday
Nov222016

Opal, harmonicas, and not wasting time



1.
Opal is lonely. She’s got a small body and a small voice, and before I can even say hello she’s asked me to move her chair. It’s scary, she says. Can you make it so I can see people walking by?

She’s 90 (though she insists she’s 98) and tells me how to live a good life: Don’t waste a moment, she says. Get up, get to work, don’t waste time.

2.
I don’t know what to say about the state of the world. It feels like a rotten melodrama with a long intermission — until you realize this play doesn’t end, and it’s not even a play. This stage set is real life and we’re part of the show.  It’s all too much.

Lots of hand-wringing: What do we do now? what do we do?

My refrain: I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. 

3.
Poet Ron Padgett has some suggestions. Among the litany:
 
Take out the trash.

Love life.

Use exact change.

Those are directions I can follow. 

4.
And so we go to work. Not the “work” of resistance, rebuilding or rebuke, but the actual paycheck work because, well, life goes on. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Laundry, dishes, bills. Read, write, sleep. Repeat. Everything changes and nothing changes.

5.
Fun Fact: the harmonica is the only instrument in which you both blow in and out, and this action helps strengthen the lungs and the muscles that support breathing. Because of this, my dad takes harmonica lessons with a group of pulmonary patients.  

Last week we attended his harmonica concert. Seeing him beaming with ability, with life, turned me tender. I cried all the way through You Are My Sunshine.

6.
And this, I think, is proof of good moments. They move like fog. And while I want to pay attention, some days I’m too weary and these brief moments lift and waft away. But Opal says we mustn’t dawdle. I think she’s right.

Let’s live wide awake, looking for good. 

 

Sunday
Nov132016

And the people turned to poems

A wonderful thing happened this week: poems. 

In the wake of anger, uncertainty and unrest, my phone and email filled with poems. From people I hardly knew and from those I hold close. Because poems often say what the heart cannot yet grasp, I was heartened to know that in times of turmoil we still turn to poems to speak for us. 

Hours after a new president was announced, this poem arrived: 


Change
 


Change is the new,

improved


word for god,

 

lovely enough

to raise a song

 

or implicate

 

a sea of wrongs,

mighty enough,

 

like other gods,

 

to shelter,

bring together,

 

and estrange us.

 

Please, god,

we seem to say,

 

change us.

 

— Wendy Videlock

 

 

As dismay turned to resolve, this poem arrived:

 

Still I Rise 

You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.


Does my sassiness upset you?

Why are you beset with gloom?

‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells

Pumping in my living room.


Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high,

Still I’ll rise.


Did you want to see me broken?

Bowed head and lowered eyes?

Shoulders falling down like teardrops,

Weakened by my soulful cries?

 
Does my haughtiness offend you?

Don’t you take it awful hard

‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines

Diggin’ in my own backyard.


You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I’ll rise.


Does my sexiness upset you?

Does it come as a surprise

That I dance like I’ve got diamonds

At the meeting of my thighs?


Out of the huts of history’s shame

I rise

Up from a past that’s rooted in pain

I rise

I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
 

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise

Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear

I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise.

 

— Maya Angelou

 

  

As the streets turned ugly and solace felt scarce:  


The Peace of Wild Things


When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

 

— Wendell Berry

 


What brings
you comfort and clarity in these divisive days? 

 

Wednesday
Nov022016

Borrow Some Sugar


The story says 

that when

hard-hearted

borrow some sugar. 

 

Kiss

the tendency 

to go through danger. 

 

- Drew Myron 
extracted from Thorndike Century Junior Dictionary via Ex Libris Anonymous 

 

Wednesday
Oct262016

Thankful Thursday: What to Do?

To Say Nothing But Thank You

All day I try to say nothing but thank you, 
breathe the syllables in and out with every step I 
take through the rooms of my house and outside into 
a profusion of shaggy-headed dandelions in the garden
where the tulips’ black stamens shake in their crimson cups.
 
I am saying thank you, yes, to this burgeoning spring 
and to the cold wind of its changes. Gratitude comes easy
after a hot shower, when my loosened muscles work, 
when eyes and mind begin to clear and even unruly 
hair combs into place.
 
Dialogue with the invisible can go on every minute, 
and with surprising gaiety I am saying thank you as I 
remember who I am, a woman learning to praise 
something as small as dandelion petals floating on the
steaming surface of this bowl of vegetable soup, 
my happy, savoring tongue.

— Jeanne Lohmann

 

All day I try to shake the rain, the blues. Thankfulness takes root in the small spaces and I look for where gratitude can lift and carry me out of myself.  

After all these years I still find solace in gentle things: soup, books, soft sweaters, talking and not talking. Some days I do not talk at all. And when I resurface words mean more. 

What to do when you're blue? Talk to Betty, Edith or Opal. In other words, visit a nursing home. 

Today I met Opal. She's 90. Her voice is soft and thin, her smile gentle, and when she tells me how her family moved across the country in a Model A Ford, I am right there with her, bumping along rough winter roads with gas cans and a washtub strapped to the roof. 

She tells me more stories, most of which seem dubious, but I don't mind. We all have unsteady moments, in our bodies and our minds. I appreciate the murky places.  

"Opal," I say, "you're a good egg." 

"Well, we have to be," she says. "We must be kind." 

What to do when the sky is gray and the gloom is large? Be kind. Talk softly. Make soup. 

 

It's Thankful Thursday, a weekly pause to express appreciation for people, places and things. What are you thankful for today?