Gratitude

Things I am grateful for, journaled.

10.14.2021 It’s been a long while since I felt I could add to this list. A general drifting of my attention from what matters into the easy rhythms of trivia, accompanied by a series of problems that ranged from drudgery to tragedy and back again, have held me back from asserting gratitude here. Actually having to log in and interact with the interface in order to jot down stray thoughts seemed alone enough to shove me over into not-actually-grateful, until I realized I was just pinning excuses to my inertia. No matter, like having the yips, if the idea that I am not in a state of gratitude exists in my head, it will keep me from reaching that state.

And then my dog died. Mourning the death of a pet is almost a foundational cliche, the rainbow bridge and Gates of Heaven and–really, there is so much schmaltz, so much emotional manipulation wound up in the symbol that I was not sure how to feel about expressing it. Like the way my hyperawareness of my failure to exist in a state of gratitude prevented me from feeling it, I guess, the idea of Oswald leaving us at first inhibited my ability to process it, to express my grief, even as he was clearly not there, even as I felt the air whoosh out of his lungs for the last time.

And then, as so often happens, the scales fell away, maybe that last breath blew them off after winding its way around the earthy part of the globe (he didn’t like the dog pool as much as our other dog). I talked about his death in fits and starts with Comfortina, we are expert at finding a language to help each other, and I cried at some strange and also obvious times, and one day everything that seemed important enough to prevent me from being grateful just melted into air. I don’t know when, what I was thinking, just that it was so obvious, the best way to mourn is to live in awe of the time we had with those we loved. I am glad to have figured this out again.

5.24.2021 The success of the movie Nomadland, which I have not seen, reminded me of the original article that the book, and later the movie, were taken. I read the article back in 2014 and wanted to know more, and then forgot about it until the movie came out, so, now I get more. Reading it has made me unexpectedly nostalgic, and for a path I chose not to take (there must be a word for this feeling, perhaps in a language other than English). The folks in Nomadland are wanderers, living in various kinds of vehicles, driving a circuit of low paying temp jobs and public land campsites. Most of them chose this life after losing their homes and savings in the 2008 financial crisis, but they also claim to be happy with their situations, that they are “free” of the bonds of consumer culture. The truth of this claim is fairly complicated to judge, and the book is worth reading for anyone who wants to think more about it. I fully understand the desire to throw off the chains that bind me to the workaday world and hit the highway, and at one point in my life, I started down that road, but I quickly found that living in such a way was not freedom, but a different set of bonds–once the gas is gone, and the food runs out, one must either steal, work, or depend on the largess of others, or some combination of all three, and these are chains just as surely as a mortgage, they are just more short-term.

At one point in the book, one of the nomads emails her family to show them her “yard,” that is, a public park where she is camped for 14 days (the legal limit), and asks how much it would cost to own a yard like this, when hers is free. It is not free, of course, I own it, and so does every citizen of the USA, and we all pay for it as well. I am happy to let her use it, but the crux here is: being a free spirit is expensive, and others pick up much of the tab, and there is really nothing free about that, or at least any more free than a life where one freely chooses a different set of responsibilities that constrain life in a different way. I am grateful that I figured that out before I went too far down a hole that seems very, very hard to dig out of.

2.10.2021 Today is the kind of cold that shocks the skin, makes everything tingle when stepping inside. Chickadees shiver all winter in an attempt to keep warm–I’m sure other birds do, too, but chickadees are the ones I have read about–a fact that makes me even more relieved when I am able to step from freeze to warmth, and pull off layers of clothing as my body heats up. It feels like singing.

2.1.2021 I love all manner of food, making it as well as eating it, and I include drink in this category (oh my this stuff is delicious), but nothing points me in the direction of nirvana quite like a cold glass of water when I am thirsty. It’s a cthonic, primal surge that I feel, surely somehow connected to a pre-evolutionary instinct. I once saw an Eritrean guy I worked with drink from a water jug by pouring it into his mouth without letting it quite touch his lips, and I gave it a try, and now I do that to amplify the joy, removing the last barrier between mouth and sweet, cold water.

1.30.2021 I walked to the little neighborhood grocery, bought frozen ravioli, a wedge of Asiago cheese, and a red pepper, then walked home. It is cold outside, and I was well wrapped, so I was nearly sweating when I got home. That I can do these things–buy pretty good ravioli without having to make them from scratch, let alone grow, cut, and mill the wheat and make flour, for example–is astonishing. I could choose to make them from scratch, I could choose to grow and mill wheat, but I have the choice, and now that I am home, on a Saturday afternoon, I have my choice of hundreds, even thousands of years of art to engage with… so Against Drunken Cat Paws it is.

1.29.2021 We are all tired of the Pandemic, of the restrictions and need to change our behaviors in uncomfortable ways, and many of us have barely enough resources to survive, but I believe we will come out the other side better, with a path to being even more equitable and living shining before us. I am grateful for that hope, even as it struggles to be heard among the voices in my head telling me most people are mean, small, and untrustworthy. But I hear it, clear as a bell, chiming in rhythm with the motions of the world around me.

1.27.2021 The sewer line has backed up somewhere, so I spent the morning shoveling sewage into a bucket. A man from the city came and checked the flow at the street, and confirmed something was stuck between the house and where he stood, so, now I get to try and poke around with a snake and try to make the shit flow again. And I am grateful for every step, for the presence of plumbing, for the attention I was forced to give it, for the cranky man with the flow meter, for the snake I had in my garage from the last time this happened. Life is a wonder.

1.26.2021 The sun on a frozen day, so bright in the window it hurts my eyes. I lay back and the inside of my eyes a sea of red and orange, and I feel all the other days when I felt the same sensation, spiraling backwards from this one. Even as a child I loved the way the warmth and the play of light through my lids put me in a state of peaceful awareness.

12.3.2010 Sitting in front of a fire, coldest day of the winter on the other side of the window. The dogs get excited when I brush out the fireplace, the flames turn them into lotus eaters. Nothing wrong with that.