“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”
Marcus Tullius Cicero (source, goodreads.com)
This post, which perhaps rings familiar with a few of you, emerged around Thanksgiving of last year from a deep sense of hopelessness. However, it was this post that also launched my blog. And now, after a year’s passing, that hopelessness has birthed a new sense of purpose. But without gratitude, I would have drowned.
The meaning of gratitude
The literal meaning of gratitude comes from the Latin word gratus, which means thankful, or pleasing. We can further define gratitude in an essay by Robert Emmons, who thinks of gratitude as having two parts. The first part is recognizing the benefits or good in our lives. The second part affirms that these good things originated outside of ourselves, whether we received them as gifts from others, or from a spiritual entity.
Where I found gratitude
Even though my sadness ran deep, I found gratitude in my family members, appreciating the uniqueness and gifts of all of those present, while meditating on the deceased. It’s telling that we often experience such strong connections with our loved ones after their passing. An unfortunate, yet beneficial, result of experiencing this is realizing that we could have felt and shown more gratitude when they were physically present. However, the comfort and closeness that arrives from dwelling on them – calling them forth – brings a completely new kind of spiritual connection.
In addition, I found gratitude in all of you. Thank you for listening as I’ve shared my thoughts and, sometimes, parts of my life. I owned my sadness and poured my energy into learning all about blogging. What began as a website on natural beauty and personal essays, which there’s nothing wrong with that, developed into a passion for the environment and the importance of educating myself and others on climate change. I guess this became my way of paying it forward.
But one of the most important ways I experienced gratitude was through a keen awareness of my everyday surroundings. And those are what I wish to share with you today. It was the little things that got me through the darkest days. So, I’m sharing them with you, below, in this Thanksgiving postcard from my wood.
A tour of my wood
The image, below, tells the story of what much of my wood looks like – all the way to the San Francisco Bay – an area largely untouched, minus a few cows. I’m amazed that open space like this exists in an area of 7.2 million people.
John Muir’s house
Less than a quarter of a mile from our house, the humble, yet stately, home of John Muir stands as a kind of gateway to this open space. I like to imagine him walking in these hills, when he wasn’t writing in his study, exploring the wilderness, or tending to the family fruit ranch .
But let’s not forget the wild turkeys. My route to the grocery store and post office passes through hills with houses sprinkled here and there and fields, where wild turkeys gather to feed. I delight in the silly way they run, and I forget about the freeway that lies beyond.
Yet, splendor sometimes comes in small packages. This is Hamilton, my neighbor’s dog, who unassumingly walks into our living room, or any neighbor’s living room, for that matter, invited or not. After all, he knows he’s special and assumes everyone else thinks so, too. Besides, his neighborhood is filled with so many places to explore.
So, these are the wonders of my wood – my neighborhood nestled against the hills, where John Muir walked, wild turkeys dash and strut in a prehistoric dance, and Hamilton amuses and inspires with his “of course I can” spirit.
“The ship of my life may or may not be sailing on calm and amiable seas. The challenging days of my existence may or may not be bright and promising. Stormy or sunny days, glorious or lonely nights, I maintain an attitude of gratitude. If I insist on being pessimistic, there is always tomorrow. Today I am blessed.” Maya Angelou (source, goodreads.com)
Blessings to all of you this Thanksgiving – here in the U.S. and everywhere. I’m truly grateful for all of your visits to my website, my wood. And I look forward to another year of sharing and growing together.