Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thankfulness eases adversity

It's been a tough year for us. While thankfulness doesn't erase the ache of adversity,  it can ease it. I'm choosing to focus on the year's blessings this week.

January: I am grateful for tutoring three razor smart first grade boys from Africa. They didn't speak a word of English but used the universal law of learning: mimic what you see. One morning Mohammed grabbed my sticky notes and a marker and made a name tag for himself.  He passed the tools so the others could make their own. When I looked puzzled he pointed at the name tag on my chest. It was my privilege to help them get a good start in their new lives, and a weekly source of fun.

February: Cold nights and starry skies.  Living in a city now, the stars are masked. I close my eyes and thank God for many nights I stepped outside our North Carolina home to  marvel at the studded vault above me. 

March: What can be more glorious than the month's progression from tight red leaf buds to  Bradford pears dressed like brides, electrifying redbud blossoms, and yellow daffodils carpeting the landscape?

April: Sorrowfully we decided to sell our beloved home and move close to our family. An unexpected hospital stay confirmed the timing.

May: Off-season harvest from seven years teaching middle school. Two of my students, now married to one another, invited us to celebrate their daughter's birthday. One of the other guests was also a former student.  She enthusiastically reported that she was teaching in a preschool, and thanked me for my inspiriting example. Wonder of wonders!

June: Beach week! Even though it was cut short by my husband's medical emergency, my friends poured love out and arranged a pony express to get me home. Everyone rallied for Bill's surgery and recovery.

July: Despite reduced mobility, I  savored summer: a cool bath with the breeze blowing the curtains, fresh peas from the garden. The bright blue balls hanging from the hydrangea surprised me every time I walked by them since it had been badly damaged by frost.

August and September: Unable to do much,  the 3 year old and I squeezed into the red recliner and tilted back. There we spent many happy hours reading and laughing, reenacting Humpty Dumpty at least fifty times.

October: I can drive! I can walk!

November: Struggling with revised, negative diagnosis for my dear husband. Oh, my God, thank you for his friendship, gentleness and love during the forty three years of our marriage.

Whatever your troubles this year, pause. Recall instances of beauty, acts of kindness received, relationships enjoyed, meaningful work. Then read your list to somebody.
Gratitude shared is gratitude multiplied. 

Let me hear an amen!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Disturbing the Autumn Peace

The last two weeks of October were as warm as any in September. The trees clenched their green and yellow hands waiting for the cold shock to signal it was time to let go until they just gave up. The breezes finally shook the leaves free and covered the lawn.

truck full of leaves
Out here in suburbia homeowners don't want to see leaves in their yards. Crews of grounds men with powerful blowers invade daily. They blast the leaves off of lawns like water cannons vanquish protestors.

The neighborhood wakes up to a sound like a hundred souped-up hair dryers at a beauty pageant. I compared the current cacaphony to last year's rural fall -- a whisper of leaves dropping, and the scritch, scratch of the rake. Today's beauty is marred by a barrage of noise, peace disturbed.

We wanted to help our host family clear their yard and bought a light weight plastic rake with wide, wide red tines. We danced  a two step around the yard. Bill scooped, I bagged. (Burning is not allowed here.)  We enjoyed the distinct autumn ritual, crunching through ankle high dry leaves. It took two of us about an hour to fill three bags, with time out for the three year old to be buried under a pile, lie on top of a pile, and bury his dinosaur then find it again. We enjoyed the sun on our backs, the rhythmic movement, the unique smell of disintegrating leaves--the quiet.

Of course the next day, there were many more on the ground. Our oldest grandson grabbed the rake to make a dive pile. Later I was confounded to see our three trophy bags limp and empty. He'd "needed" them to augment the mound they wanted to jump into.

Well, I'd had my fun, and they had theirs.