In praise of light

We're half deep in the official month of giving thanks. Why limit our gratitude to a single day?

In my childhood, we wrote thank you notes year-round. Taught by my mother early on, offering appreciation was an exercise, both in writing and in the power and importance of gratitude.

As I got older, I was glad for the training. I knew that attending a party, or landing a job interview, required the same decorum: Express your gratitude, and right away.

It’s probably because I love to write — from grocery lists to customer service surveys — that I’ve always enjoyed penning thank you notes. And I’m nearly giddy when I am the recipient of the same.

The magic of gratitude is that the more you acknowledge good acts, gifts and intentions, the more you attract. Goodness multiplies. The more you appreciate, the more you see to appreciate.

The other night at the Young Writers Group (a weekly gathering of teen writers and adult mentors), I shared Barbara Crooker's “Praise Song," a poem I had carried with me for three years.

We went around the circle, each of us reading a line. As we focused on every single word before us, the air shifted, grew still and reverent. We seemed lifted in a sort of poetic praise. Indeed, we were in song.

We then used the poem as a prompt, writing on thankfulness for 15 minutes. The students were rapt. Pens flew fevered across paper. The results were strong.

And that just may be the beauty of gratitude. It encourages a single-minded focus while flooding the heart with rest and rejuvenation.

The next afternoon, after three days of high winds and fire-hose rains, the sun reappeared grand and sure. A full moon brought the drama of high tides, coupled with a clear blue sky.

From a damp sandy beach, I sat washed with appreciation. I wrote scores of thank you notes, and offered gratitude like candy, sweet and easy.

I praised the post office crew that keeps me connected to the busy world beyond this small town and big sea.

I praised volunteers who join me each week to read with the youngest and write with the oldest. Those whose greatest gift is the willingness to listen and to love.

I wrote more and more — notes sent and unsent — to teachers and mentors from years ago, to people who’ve come and gone, who touched me deep for just a bit, or stayed for years steady and sure. To those whose names I never knew but whose actions marked my heart. To those who have passed, and to those still finding their way.

As pelicans circled the churning shore, I sat hushed and still, praising soft light and long shadows, all it touches, all it reveals.

Praise Song

Barbara Crooker

Praise the light of late November,
the thin sunlight that goes deep in the bones.
Praise the crows chattering in the oak trees;
though they are clothed in night, they do not
despair. Praise what little there's left:
the small boats of milkweed pods, husks, hulls,
shells, the architecture of trees. Praise the meadow
of dried weeds: yarrow, goldenrod, chicory,
the remains of summer. Praise the blue sky
that hasn't cracked yet. Praise the sun slipping down
behind the beechnuts, praise the quilt of leaves
that covers the grass: Scarlet Oak, Sweet Gum,
Sugar Maple. Though darkness gathers, praise our crazy
fallen world; it's all we have, and it's never enough.

— from Radiance, 2005, published by Word Press