Gifts and Graces

Autumn Leaves Over the Pond

Gratitude. It doesn’t always come naturally.

grat i tude noun the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

Along with the continual quest to lift my eyes so I can see, I’ve been trying to acknowledge life’s gifts and the little graces of each season. It’s a practice that helps me cultivate gratitude and walk life’s road more grace-fully.

These are some of this season’s gifts and graces:

  1. Cats, because field mice and fall. And also there’s purring.
  2. The settling in that comes with shorter days and longer nights.
  3. Glimpses of the sun after a string of grey.
  4. Board games, because I too easily succumb to the pseudo-rest of DVDs and Amazon Prime.  A modified version of Bananagrams  continues to be something our family gathers around.
  5. Candles. They’re cheery company on grey days and when darkness falls too early.
  6. Maps. I’ve had an unusual amount of road time this fall and, while GPS is a gift of its own, it’s nice to see the whole route at once.
  7. My daughter’s navigational skills, a trait she got directly from her dad. When the two of us went on a road trip involving more traffic than I am comfortable with, I was grateful for her ability to get a map in her head and understand the landscape. More than even that, I’m glad to know that if she finds herself living in a city she’ll be able to find her way.
  8. On the subject of road trips: Grandparent willing to substitute teach. Reliable vehicles. Generous offers and kind invitations.
  9. Color.  God makes all things beautiful in their time and in their way.

And you? What helps you cultivate gratitude in your life beyond the Thanksgiving season?

Happy Thanksgiving,
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For everything there is a season

Sharing with the writers at Kelly’s #smallwonder link-up.

Because Winter is Inevitable

aspen
Once, long  ago, before babies and moves to houses in new communities, I picked up the beginning of an understanding of the seasons—their rhythms, their tasks, their hard realities. Learning to be a mom to three babies while finding my way in three different towns left room for little else in my brain. I traded a loose grip on the concept of seasons for the clutching fist of survival.

It was not a good trade.

I forgot that seasons really do change. That whether delightful or dry, balmy or bitter, fertile or fruitless, they don’t last forever. That there is a time for every single thing.

SmokeysI still thought about seasons here and there. I even wrote about them. What I didn’t do was believe the truth of them, a truth that drifted around, unanchored, just beyond my grasp.

At least, that’s how it was until I woke up on the hard ground one morning in a tent in South Dakota to a bombardment of missiles launched by a pinecone-gathering squirrel. The squirrel didn’t forget. Because he is a creature of instinct and the outdoors, he knew. Yellowstone 2011 It was September and he was doing the work of the season—gathering pinecones and flinging them down from the tree in rapid succession. They landed on the ground, the picnic table, the tent, and the camper next door. Autumn, the season of harvest, of preparation, of gathering and storing what he needed for the winter, weighed on him. He went to work with the sunrise.

Cocooned between my husband and our littlest one, who’d woken up cold in the night and sought out somewhere warmer to sleep, I listened to the frenzied activities of the squirrel in the tree above as he prepared for the unavoidable days of winter. From the warmth of our double sleeping bag, I considered the cycle of the seasons and acknowledged my own.

Deep winter. There was no other name for it.

Above the Basin

Our babies had grown into big kids, but even years beyond what we hoped would be the last move, the bleak chill of displacement claimed my soul in the same way the afternoon cold settles into my bones and makes them ache. And this frozen season of the heart held on too long, so long that my emotional storehouses—reserves against times drought and famine—depleted to dangerously low levels. With little left to fight off an engulfing depression, I longed for spring, a spring so slow in coming I thought it might never arrive.

But it did.

It came quietly, meandering in soon after waking up to that squirrel. It came on the heels of a long breakfast with an old friend, several perspective-challenging days in the mountains with my dad, and a couple of space-making weeks in South Dakota with my family. It came slowly, spring, with its powers of restoration, and its light, balmy air that took the chill off my soul.

The squirrel gathered because his fields were ripe. He gathered because it was time to harvest. The physical world is tidy that way. The seasons come in turn. Winter, then spring, then summer, then fall. And then it begins again.

101_0915It isn’t so simple in the world of people. Our seasons don’t follow a predictable pattern. They don’t always come in turn. And because of the rich complexities of our lives, we sometimes find ourselves facing deep winter in one place and high summer in another.

What the squirrel didn’t know on that sunny September morning was that within the month his home in the Black Hills would be blanketed by two feet of out-of-season, blizzard-driven snow. Like him, I’ll never know when autumn’s abundance will end. But what I’m learning is that winter is inevitable, that it’s best to gather whenever and wherever the fields are ripe.

For everything there is a season

Linking with Kelly’s Small Wonder and Lyli’s Thought Provoking Thursday.

This post was originally shared at circlingthestory.com.