Sunday, October 18, 2009

Lesser Gods

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.


steven said...

wow pauline - you've just articulated a set of thankfullnesses i've carried around with me in my head for a long long time. each resonated with me - but for your loving dog - i've never owned a dog as an adult. i sure could've used a good animal friend like that at times!!! have a lovely day. steven

PhilipH said...

Pure gold, 24k gold - that's what your post is Pauline.

Your words flow so seemingly smoothly and yet must have been carefully selected, as were your photographs. I particularly liked the table setting and the library shelves.

This is the first time I've read of your divorce. A stressful experience of course and the love and tenderness of your dog must have been a great help.

Best wishes forever.

Gary said...

Beautiful post! I wish I had written it. :)

I am grateful for these things as well (rain when you are snuggly in bed is especially wonderful). I also enjoyed your pictures.


Pauline said...

Steven - I often say wow at your posts! And I still miss that dog.

Philip - thank you, thank you - for the kind words and the best wishes.

Gary - there are so many things to be grateful for, aren't there? Coziness is one of my favorites :)

Barbara said...

All those little things add up, don't they? I'm on board with all those things you so beautifully mentioned. Feeling grateful brings with it a certain level of contentment.

Roberta S said...

Beautiful thoughts, Pauline. All things lovely but I had to smile at a shared joy with you about the milk in the bottom of the carton. I am just so amazed, satisfied, and pleased, when it is still sweet -- and I so expected it not to be.

Anonymous said...

Having recently 'fessed up to being a 'list' person, what is not to love about this list.

Certainly a more profound and meaningful list than the majority - thanks for the gentle reminder.

Alan G

herhimnbryn said...

Yes, dear P. Yes!

Meggie said...

Beautiful post.
Have you read "the God of Small Things"?
I loved every word of it!
I am ashamed to say I have forgotten the beautiful Author's name!

Anonymous said...

With you all of the way with these, Pauline. (I even had a cat called Parker once!)

Mother of Invention said...

So true! Thanks for the reminder..much needed!

Little bonuses may add up to the Grand Prize!

Ruth D~ said...

There is nothing like raining tears into the fur of a beloved and empathic pet. For this I give thanks.

etcetera said...

Wow! Gods of small things indeed. Well said--just the right balance of wonder and guidance.