J and I are really low-key when it comes to the holidays. Our shared attitude toward Thanksgiving is very similar to our shared attitude toward Valentine’s Day: if you’re grateful (or in love) 365 days of the year, it’s not hugely important to feel extra grateful (or extra in-love) on an officially sanctioned holiday. If you’re grateful (or in love) 365 days of the year, Thanksgiving (or Valentine’s Day) really is like every other day.
Yesterday morning, for instance, I took Reggie on our usual morning dog-walk. Along the way, I saw (and photographed) two different spider webs outlined in water-droplets: remnants from this week’s drizzly weather. Spider webs are even more difficult to photograph than raindrops are: spider-webs are often invisible, and even when you can see a spider-web, it’s often difficult to get a point-and-shoot camera to focus on something so delicate and insubstantial. Point-and-shoot cameras like to focus on things that are big and obvious, so something as gossamer-fine as a spider web is a tough capture.
It feels silly to admit it, but when Reggie and I got home from yesterday’s otherwise ordinary dog-walk, I felt absurdly grateful to have seen and photographed spider-webs: not one but two instances of serendipity in a single morning! Counting “spider webs” among one’s Thanksgiving blessings seems insanely sappy, but that’s how I felt yesterday morning. At that moment, “Thanksgiving” wasn’t a matter of counting big blessings, it was a matter of realizing the silly little things I appreciate each day: small blessings other folks might overlook.
On any given day, for example, I feel absurdly grateful to be healthy enough to walk the dog and tend to my work. When I come home from a long, tiring day teaching, I feel grateful to have a job that demands so much (every last bit sometimes) of my energy. Every time I go to the grocery store, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude to be able to fill my trunk with food, and I feel a similar sort of gratitude whenever I balance my checkbook or pay my bills. Beyond the basic blessings of having my health, a job, and enough money to provide food and shelter for myself, I find myself filling my journal day after day with scribbled sentences noting how satisfied I feel simply to sit at my kitchen table after another boring breakfast while Reggie lies sleeping on the floor. “I’m grateful for the sound of my dog breathing” sounds absurdly silly if you mention it as being one of this year’s blessings, but I can’t count the number of times I’ve said something similar in my journal, on plenty of days other than Thanksgiving.
I think we Americans need a holiday like Thanksgiving because most days, we live in a culture of complaint. When you turn on the TV, you’ll see talking heads shouting to see which political party can complain the loudest; when you turn on the radio, you’ll hear callers who have spent precious hours of their life waiting to voice their dissatisfaction with local sports, politics, or whatever. Around the office water cooler, workers whine about the boss, the workload, or the clients. At the local bar, you’ll hear folks complaining over cocktails about their partner, their mother-in-law, or their kids. Surfing the Internet, you’ll find a good portion of both the blog- and Twitter-sphere devoted to online rants and workday frustration. Venting is an important part of one’s emotional well-being, we tell ourselves, and complaining is one of the central ways we bond with other people. But why exactly should this be so? Why do we spend 364 days of our lives talking amongst ourselves about what’s wrong and only a single day-long holiday counting what’s right?
On this morning’s dog-walk, I noticed that both of the spider-webs I’d photographed yesterday were gone, having broken or been washed away under the weight of overnight rain. Now that those webs are no longer there, I’m even more grateful that I saw and photographed them yesterday when I had the chance. An annual Thanksgiving is like a point-and-shoot camera that focuses on blessings that are big and obvious, but most of the things we have to be grateful for are small, easy to overlook, and gossamer-thin. Today’s blessings might not be around tomorrow, so why wait another year to count those serendipities that can’t be numbered?
Click here for twelve random images from yesterday’s morning and afternoon walks around the neighborhood: a dozen ordinary blessings I’m grateful for.