Gratitude goes beyond the ‘mine’ and ‘thine’ and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift. In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.
~ Henri J. M. Nouwen
I woke up and got out of bed around 5:00 this morning. It might be a new habit. It’s too early to tell since it’s only been a week or so of early rising. I like getting up when it’s still dark and the house is quiet. Even the cats aren’t looking for their breakfast just yet. As the sky begins to lighten, everyone else begins to stir. I hear the tick-tick-tick of Bella’s claws (they need trimmed) and the muffled sound of Izzy’s paws (she somehow keeps her claws quiet even when they need trimmed) as they make their way to the kitchen, ready to start their day with a half can of Fancy Feast cat food. Only the stinkiest, smelliest, fishiest food will do.
I can also hear M moving around as he begins his morning routine, and the coffeemaker is already brewing coffee without help from me thanks to a timer, modern technology, and M setting it up the night before. After the sun rises, I check the outside temperature. It is 32°F. The sky is clear as blue crystal and it looks like it will be a beautiful day for a walk. I wait for a while. Let it warm up a bit. When it gets to 35°F, I put on and lace up my hiking boots, don all of what I think will be the appropriate outerwear including hat and gloves, and step outside and get hit by the cold. Wow. The first cold day of autumn is always such a shocker, like diving into a pool of icy water. Then I move out from the shelter of the deck and the house into the wind, and the chill of the wild arctic nearly blows me away. My face goes numb and I think, “I’m not dressed properly for this.”
I never do wear the appropriate layers on the first cold day of fall. It’s as if I forget the lessons of the previous years and decades, and have to start over every year. I forget about the wind, too, and how much heat the wind can draw out of a warm body.
I keep walking anyway. I’m here, might as well. Besides, this is not really cold compared to what I grew used to in northeast Ohio. This is mild stuff. Or so I keep telling myself as I walk up the driveway, staying in the sunlight hoping that exercise and solar energy will warm me up quickly. It doesn’t. Sometimes the rawness of the wind almost takes my breath away. Briskly marching on the sandy path, my muscles start to warm up, but my extremities are still chilled. I curl my gloved hands into the bottom of the sleeves of my sweatshirt and then tuck my wrapped hands into the pockets of my winter vest.
I decide to skip the walk through the graveyard and the meadows. The meadows will be muddy from yesterday’s rain and I don’t want wet feet. My hiking boots are water resistant, not waterproof. I march back the way I came, faster this time because the wind is urging me onward, and then cut across the front yard towards the lagoon. The grass is dewy, and much too long. I haven’t done the last mow yet. Maybe tomorrow or Wednesday. I’ll do it sometime soon.
The sunlight is sparkling on the surface of the lagoon and the reeds are rustling, reminding me of a rain stick. It’s not quite the sound of pebbles whooshing through a dried cactus tube, but close. A ssshhhhh and a whish, a whisper and a rustle. A tree sighs and creaks, the tide- and wind-driven water sloshes and splashes.
I move on. Past the scrounger’s garden and the greenhouse. Past the pavilion, the one that was once filled with five tons of garbage and a Massey-Ferguson tractor. Now it houses bits and pieces of things found on the property, the mowers, a wagon, the wheelbarrow, barrels, and probably a hundred other things I’m forgetting about.
Just past the pavilion is the entrance to the woods. I step onto the woodland trail and make my way past the marsh grasses and into the woods, looking up and watching the tall loblollies swaying overhead. This is foolish, going into the woods on such a windy day, but the gods seem to take care of fools, or so they say, and I arrive at the dock without incident. No branches or pine cones or trees flying out of nowhere and crashing on my head.
Normally the dock is one of the windiest places on the property, but not today. The woods are blocking the worst of the wind, and it is almost pleasant enough to sit on the bench for a while and soak in some sunlight.
It is bright out here on the dock with all the light bouncing around on the water. The tide is coming in and judging by how high the water is, we’ll be at high tide soon. A gust of wind drives a small flock of birds over the marsh. I’m not sure what they are. Blackbirds, maybe. Probably. There are large flocks of them here for the winter.
The kingfisher who hangs out near the neighbor’s boathouse chatters and scolds. I tell him I won’t be long. He dives for a fish. I don’t know if he caught it or not. He’s too far away for me to tell. I get up and walk back on the boardwalk and past the dead loblollies and back into the woods.
I walk full tilt, chop-chop, through the woods again, moving as fast as I can. Someone once said that if you move fast enough, the danger can’t catch up with you. I don’t believe that, but I do think it is wise not to dawdle amongst the trees today.
I make it back to the house in record time after a brief stop to say hello to the old oak tree. The oak tree and I are getting to know each other, and it would be rude not to stop for a quick morning chat.
Once back inside and devoid of the boots and layers, my body thaws out as my mind, energized by the cold, begins to write and I scribble a few notes on a post-it pad I keep in my pocket. I make a cup of hot tea, and then I warm up with this blog post before I move on to my book. Blogging is good writing practice. For those interested, my word count has not been boosted a great deal, but that’s because I’m doing some extensive research. My character has decided to tell what appear to be fairy tales. As such, they don’t need to be accurate, but bits of truth here and there are what make a good tale believable, even with the impossible and unbelievable inserted between the truths. (Just ask any politician. Ha!)
Thank you for stopping by today, and joining me on a quick walk. I was wrong about last night’s sunset. After a full day of rain, the sunset surprised us. The rain stopped just minutes before and I ran out to the dock to watch the show. It was splendiferous, a word that comes from a Late Latin word that means “brightness-bearing,” and is well suited for yesterday’s sunset. Tonight’s will not have the drama of the clouds, but it should be pretty. Meet me at the dock around 4:30 PM. Sunset is not until 4:46, but we need to get there a little early so we don’t miss the sun going down behind the trees.
Be good, be kind, be loving, be well. Just Be. 🙂
Today’s joys: The mental cobweb-clearing briskness of a morning walk on a chilly day; the beautiful blue sky; the magic of nature; stories that begin to tell themselves; a hot cup of tea to warm the body and the soul.