November Gratitude–edging closer for company

The view north (photo by Nate Gibson)

The trees are coming into their winter bareness, the only green is the lichen on their branches. Against the hemlocks, the rain is falling in dim, straight lines… This is the time of year when all the houses have come out of the woods, edging closer to the roads as if for company.
Verlyn Klinkenborg “The Rain It Raineth”

The deciduous trees in our part of the country have all been stripped bare, having come through two rain and wind storms in the last week.  It forces typically leaf-hidden homes out of camouflage and I’m once again startled at the actual proximity of our neighbors.  It isn’t as obvious in the summer given the tree buffer everyone has carefully planted.  Now we’re reminded once again we are not alone and actually never have been.

Even the mountains that surround us from the northwest to the southeast seem closer when the trees are bare and new snow has settled on their steep shoulders.

We think we have autonomy all wrapped up but it takes the storms of autumn to remind us we are unwrapped and vulnerable, stark naked, in desperate need of company when darkness comes early, the snow flies and the lights are flickering.

The view north from the field (photo by Nate Gibson)

The view northeast (photo by Nate Gibson)

November Gratitude–building a bridge

Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.
Maya Angelou

On this Thanksgiving day,  prayer pillows and faith bridges are sorely needed.  It can’t just be about overstuffed appetites, serial football games or midnight sales starting in a few hours.

Thanksgiving celebrates a sturdy faith that spans over trouble so gratitude can cross without getting wet.  May we not lose our balance.

November Gratitude–unending breath

photo by Josh Scholten

“Flung is too harsh a word for the rush of the world. Blown is more like it, but blown by a generous, unending breath.”
Annie Dillard

Windstorms are equal opportunity events.  No one is spared.  The power goes out in large houses and small; everyone stubs their toes in the dark looking for a flashlight.  Plenty of things are “flung” in a storm including us.

There is a sense of being pelted by the gales of life in its head long rush to our conclusion.  We want to stop for a moment, face it down,  resist the momentum of it always forcing us relentlessly forward.  We can feel flung into the future, ready or not.

So it helps to think of the progression of our lives less harshly, like an exhaled breath pushing us along even when we have no energy left to keep going.  Such inspiration becomes unstoppable, unknowable, unending and infinitely generous: the power never will run out.


November Gratitude–trapezoids of dust

“Skin was earth; it was soil. I could see, even on my own skin, the joined trapezoids of dust specks God had wetted and stuck with his spit the morning he made Adam from dirt. Now, all these generations later, we people could still see on our skin the inherited prints of the dust specks of Eden.”  Annie Dillard

And so I am dust, always have been, always will be.  I am marked with it in the same way the land is marked when it is parched and thirsty.

Thirsty as I am, I am held together by the earth, my insides dependent on that dust covering my outsides.  I drink deeply to fill the cracks and crevices.

And so I am soiled and waiting to be washed clean, always have been, always will be.

November Gratitude–moments of awe

“Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.” ~ John Milton

Our farm looked like it had a remodel update this past week by the winds and rain, covering the yard with a yellow brown shag carpet of leaves thicker than ever I remember in our two decades here.   This transformation is temporary until the leaves start to rot under the burden of endless days of wintry drizzle and freezing weather, but transcendent over plain green sod nevertheless.

I need to remind myself that only 8 months ago, none of these leaves even existed.  They were mere potential in bud form, about to burst and grow in a silent awesome explosion of green and chlorophyll.   After their brief tenure as shade and protection and fuel factory for their tree, last week they rained to the ground in torrents, letting go of the only security they had known.

Now they are compost, returning to the soil to feed the roots of the trees that gave them life to begin with.

Transcendent death.

November Gratitude–For Rain

Apples in the Rain by Trudy Wilkerson

I’m hankering for thankfulness during this quiet dark month.

The rains have started in earnest, and for that I’m grateful.  It is time to hunker down and let the earth rest and replenish without feeling the need to plant, plow, weed or harvest.

Or maybe it is really us that need to be rested and replenished.

There is no better place to start than with gratitude.

To Be Bold in Thankfulness

Saying Grace by Norman Rockwell

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29: 11-13

Independence Day never fails to remind me once again to be thankful for the blessings of living in the United States of America, despite its considerable flaws.  Yet, as a certifiably shy person, I’m understated in showing my gratitude most of the time.   Learning to be bold in thanksgiving is exactly what is needed right now.

During our evening service yesterday, following yet another outstanding church potluck, our pastor, reading Jeremiah 29,  reminded us that even when we feel as if we don’t even belong here, we are to make ourselves at home, settle in, make this land our own even though our stay is temporary.  We are instructed to be bold in seeking the Lord, calling out to Him no matter what the circumstance, and in response,  He will bring us to Himself.

Then we will know with certainty, there is no place like home.