Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Nature of Giving Thanks

I wrote this yesterday, finishing just before midnight. For that I am grateful. It rains here in Portland. Just like most Thanksgiving Days I remember as a boy. It's all good. I wish this were verse, but the poet is on vacation.

It started the first day of the month — after the commercial gleaning of our society's ghoul effect. The morning after Halloween one season of cultural indoctrination gives way to the next. It's as predictable as the moon-driven tide. 'Tis the season that bloggers, columnists and TV hosts are intent on representing and impressing the grateful heart.

I'd like to think I am different than they. I like to think. I usually try to post a few pleasant thoughts of gratitude and kinship, but some years the effort fails me. With the pace of life these days, I hit or miss. And as I start this piece, I'm not sure when I will post it. I am on vacation, somewhat, and want to relax and feel the blessings — not mold them to the purpose of impressing.

What am I grateful for? Or, what do I love?

If I were to summarize the thoughts of mine and most, I guess I would say: We are thankful for all the pleasures of love and possession. Woopi! What else is there?


Of course I am grateful for all the joys of living, but how do these come about?

Love is not realized without heartache. And nothing is gained without labor? The challenge for every reward often means pain before pleasure. As the earth turns and seasons advance, so too do the waves of fortune and the journey of soul. Are we grateful for that?

That is the reality check. Acknowledge the cycles. This is earth, where mountains bracket valleys and days break the night. We select our desires. Most do not choose the marsh or the desert, though rain and sun are both treasures. We want to control our environment the best we can. We live where we want, if we can. But the choice takes action. Are we grateful for that? I'd have to say, Yes.

But environment is more than material. Our pleasure is really beyond the realm of matter, energy, time and space. Because we are more than our bodies. In this season of holidays we reflect on what more that truly is.

This was a good day. So much input for reflection. Inspiration for thought. For all that, I am grateful. So much to do in preparation of tomorrow. Thanksgiving — even on vacation — is a time of stuffing. Here are just some of the highlights since Sunday when Marily and I left home:

1. The challenges of pre-trip prep and making our flight.
2. The flight—in coach. Three and a half hours from MSP to PDX.
3. Car rental at PDX.
4. Accommodations at relatives. Night one on living room hide-a-bed at Marily's mother, Edna's appartment. Two, in brother Jerome's guest room. Three, at Edna's neighbor, Karen, with cat watch duty.
5. From storage and to store for seasonal decorations.
6. Pick up daughter, Sarah, at PDX.
7. Grocery shopping for Thanksgiving Day.
8. Unplanned visit to two clinics for Marily's mother, with traffic and parking and hours of waiting.
9. Visits with family and friends.
10. Jet lag.
11. Culinary challenges: diet vs. enjoyment.
12. Getting enough rest.

If this were just a material world, these 12 points would be but a shuttle puzzle of sliding chips for what goes where and when. Utilizing energy in the constraints of time and space is only an exercise in engineering. But because we have peopled the earth — we humans, matters of heart and soul are not so defined. The box is bigger. The challenges and rewards are greater, and more complex. Are we grateful for this?

I would have to say, Yes.

In every turn since we left home, there are blessings: Suzanne, who brought us to the airport. The happy baby on the plane who did not cry. The $18 a day car rental rate. The kindness of clerks and attendants in this time of rush. The smile of a homeless person when she said, God blesses you in thanks. Good sleep when we finally turn in. And all else that is the meat of memories for stories in seasons to come.

I am grateful most for when human nature meets divine nature—and recognizes it as us. We are Soul. We inhabit these bodies and this planet. Somewhere between less and more we move ahead together. Freedom is in the choices we make. For these I give thanks.

I will bless this day.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Master of Light

Poetry is born spontaneously of inspiration. I wanted a poem to share at a friend's birthday party. How would I tap the center of creativity to express sincerely some of the qualities Dave shares by his many talents? As I was driving home Sunday the midday sun on a wooded hillside reminded me of his photography and presentation of light therein. Then it started to form lines in my mind.

Have you seen the light today?
I see it on the sunlit birch stands
awaiting first winter snow.
It shows in weeping willow domes
golden-yellow with expression.
And in the marsh grass
stark against dark wooded hills.
Three green leaves atop a bare, young cottonwood
like summer's standard still flying.
Then the blue sky behind the skeletons
of black walnut whose leaves fall first.
Or the few maples that have not yet
released their claim to autumn
where red and burgundy once ruled.

Have you seen the light today
in the season's progression?
On the road home?
Or in the portraits
by the master of light?

Happy Birthday, Dave!