Gratitude through All Seasons: When Sadness Reigns

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Image courtesy of family member

 
"Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” Marcus Tullius Cicero (source, goodreads.com)

Holidays have a way of arriving without considering our moods or feelings. One way or another, they roll around the same time each year, year after year.

This post, which perhaps rings familiar with a few of you, emerged around Thanksgiving of last year out of 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 those present, while meditating on the deceased. It's telling that we experience strong connections with our loved ones after their passing. An unfortunate, yet beneficial, result of 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 in this Thanksgiving postcard from my wood.. 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 open space like this exists in an area of 7.2 million people.

Lafayette Ridge, CA, Wikimedia Commons, By No machine-readable author provided. Mrbilal1987~commonswiki assumed (based on copyright claims). [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Lafayette Ridge, CA, Wikimedia Commons, By No machine-readable author provided. Mrbilal1987~commonswiki assumed (based on copyright claims). [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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 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.

                                                       John Muir National Historic Site, By National Park Service Digital Image Archives [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

                                                       John Muir National Historic Site, By National Park Service Digital Image Archives [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Wild turkeys

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.

                                                                               Image courtesy of Susan Kelso, trailhiker.wordpress.com

                                                                               Image courtesy of Susan Kelso, trailhiker.wordpress.com

Hamilton

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.

Color photo of our neighbor's dog sitting in his backyard, image courtesy of owners.
Color photo of our neighbor's dog sitting in his backyard, image courtesy of owners.

So, these are the wonders of my wood - my neighborhood nestled against the hills, where John Muir walked, wild turkeys dash and strut with a prehistoric rhythm 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.

Laura