Reading Barbara's recent post about gratitude set me thinking. There are times when falling on your knees and giving thanks to whatever huge life force you believe in is good and necessary. But there are other times when that seems overmuch; a simple thank you to a lesser god would suffice. The Ancients had a solution for this. They had a pantheon of powerful deities that oversaw the general running of things while the everyday and commonplace was left in the capable hands of nature and household gods. Here are some ordinary miracles that I’d like to thank the lesser gods for:
- Corn flowers and Queen Anne’s Lace nodding together in a late summer breeze. Coming unexpectedly upon the juxtaposition of their blossoms, palest of blue against snowy white, can send my senses reeling and make me feel as though I have just been handed a bouquet.
- A cat in my lap or a dog’s head under my hand when I’m sad. I made it through a divorce with the help of my dog Chester, a massive beast who made it his mission to soothe by being there. He cried when I did so that I didn’t have to do it alone, and by demanding affection, he made sure I didn’t forget how to give. Parker, a lap cat if there ever was one, lets the tears fall where they may but insists on grinning when I pet him, reminding me that where tears end, smiles begin.
- Unexpected words of praise. One of my former students burst into the classroom between periods one day and threw her arms around me in a boisterous, happy, bear hug. Then, turning to the startled new students she crowed, “You’re lucky! This teacher rocks!” She was back out the door before they could respond, but I had a big silly grin on my face for the rest of the day.
- Rain at night. Weather is often prayed over but for me a gentle rainfall at night, hearing the pattering of drops on the roof like a lullaby and snuggling down under the covers all warm and dry and sleepy, can be as pleasurable as waking to sunshine.
- A good meal. Eating is always a necessity, often a pleasure, and sometimes a downright experience. It’s the pleasurable times we should make note of, the everyday meals we should be grateful for, thanking whatever household god keeps the refrigerator running and reminds us we’re almost out of ice cream.
- Books. Where would we be without words? Without a language that lets us communicate with one another? Without our stories – the ones we tell ourselves and the ones we tell others about what our lives mean? For that matter, what would we be?
- Friends. Companions. Fellow travelers. We’ve all met people who touch our lives and our hearts in some way, who help us to become better people just for knowing them.
- Small favors. I'm grateful when my car starts the first time I turn the key, when I find unexpected money in a pocket or when I have a good hair day. I'm delighted when the last bit of milk in the carton hasn’t yet gone sour, or the weatherperson said rain, and instead the sun is shining.
It’s the little things, we say, that make or break us. Perhaps if we gave them more of our attention, more of our appreciation, we’d break less often.