I don’t even know where I was yesterday when I heard someone — I feel it was on TV, but who knows — say the New Year is a time for reflection and renewal. Of course, if you’re Jewish, you already did this, a couple of months ago, and if you’re Chinese, you need to wait a month or two longer. But for the rest of us, this is the time. (No reflecting or renewing allowed at any other time of the year.)
I just heard a “happiness” professor from Yale (Laurie Santos) talk about gratitude, which is interesting, because at Thanksgiving, which we were sharing with our friend Sue and members of her family, one of her grandsons — a very thoughtful young man — wanted to focus on the concept of gratitude itself.
Earlier that same day I had heard some expert on television say pretty much the same thing (so grandson Daniel was clearly onto something), and talk about how to truly feel gratitude you have to appreciate not only what someone gives you, but the motivation behind the gift. You take a moment to contemplate that someone thought of you and made an effort to get or do something they thought you would like, whether it’s a physical object or something more metaphysical.
While it seems entirely likely that I will be starting 2019 with a cold, which makes it hard to think, let alone reflect — and there’s a certain amount of low-level terror that I will be repeating the start of 2018, which was three months of upper respiratory issues diagnosed differently by every doctor I saw (two of whom actively, scornfully, disparaged the diagnosis of the previous doctor) — I guess I can give this a try.
My friend Art Goodtimes, a poet, philosopher, potato farmer, five-term Green Party county commissioner, basket weaver and mushroom fanatic from near Norwood, has a poem he used to bring to the Headwaters Conference at Western Not State Not College (maybe he still brings it; I haven’t attended in years). I don’t know if it’s called “Gratitude,” but that’s how it starts.
And if you know Art, you know this gets delivered in his booming voice: GRATITUDE. Then he lists — and I think the items change by the delivery– things to be grateful for, in our minds and our hearts, and then everyone else gets a chance to provide a repeated response: So be it.
I love this poem, although the words matter less to me than the sounds. I don’t know that I’ve read it, just heard it, and I love saying, as part of the group, “So be it.” It is about becoming part of something bigger, a communal thrumming of sound and words, grateful to be in the moment: So be it.
I really wanted to find a video of Art performing poetry, but it was this or a nine-minute interview. You’ll have to make do — but doesn’t he have a great voice?
[There has been a very long hiatus in here as we put some effort into cleaning the house and then vacating it for our unexpected house hunters. We vacated to our lot, where we were quite surprised to see a full crew of workmen. We met Jered, the subcontractor — a very nice fellow who turns out to have built one of the seven houses already out at Riverwalk. Sunday he was in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, where it was 89 degrees, so in one day he did a 100-degree temperature swing to come back here and go to work on a holiday. Walls tomorrow, he said.]
So far I have not offered any gratitude, just a lot of recitation of the word. And as I reflect on 2018, I recall it as a chaotic year, personally, professionally, politically. I may have to enroll in Laurie Santos’ free on-line happiness course at Yale, taken last year by 78,000 students of life.
Lynn thinks it was one year ago today that we entered into a contract to purchase our lot in Riverwalk, where starting tomorrow we get walls. This is made possible by extreme great fortune that escapes much of the world’s population — much of Gunnison’s population, for that matter. We have the financial means to do this, and great family support, and that should never be discounted.
(You can hear the “but,” can’t you?) But this has taken me out of my comfort zone, and taken me out of feeling in control. This week, for the first time since I’ve owned it, my car has been sliding on me, mildly. I don’t know if the streets are just that much icier, or I’m driving that much more carelessly, or the snow really has rubbed my tires bald, but this week my car and I are in sync: no caroming off snowbanks, or into them, no 180s, just this gentle drifting sideways before the car gains traction and moves forward. And that’s how I feel too: I keep slipping sideways before I manage to gain traction and move forward.
It’s easy to feel like this with a cold creeping around the edges of my head, but much of the past year has felt this way. I’m not sure that’s going to change as we slide into 2019, either. I mean, I’m starting the year off by letting people look at a house I don’t feel ready to sell. And at work I still haven’t figured out how many checks I need to write on Dec. 31, 2018. And while I am trying assiduously to keep politics out of this blog (and you all can see where that tiptoes in as well), Dave Barry’s end-of-the-year summation featured this line, which made me laugh out loud:
“In entertainment news, Roseanne Barr sends out a tasteless, idiotic tweet and immediately has her network show canceled, thereby illustrating a key difference between being a sitcom star and being president of the United States.”
As we look to renewal (reflection not having gone that well), I am hopeful that I can either do a better job of maintaining traction, or learn to enjoy the slide. Once, in high school, I was in my friend Doug’s car when he downshifted on a wintery 11th Street, and we slid sideways for a distance of perhaps two blocks, coming to a safe stop right at the stop sign. We laughed; what do kids know?
CBS This Morning featured previously-run interviews with Michelle Obama, Jon Batiste (Stephen Colbert’s music guru) and skater Adam Rippon, all of them uplifting and full of joy and yes, gratitude. Mr. Batiste in particular talked about finding meaning in the pauses and stillness (illustrated with his rendition of What a Wonderful World).
Now, as I enter my sixth hour since beginning this entry, I don’t know that I’ve accomplished much, either looking back or going forward. It is a New Year and a new day. The sun is shining, sort of (we’re in the midst of yet another storm warning), and it’s warmer than expected for construction crews who are working on a holiday (maybe not that warm if you’re recently returned from Mexico); Oz survived the trauma of a night filled with fireworks; Na Ki’o has just now arrived to help with this entry; and I can’t remember if one is supposed to eat black-eyed peas or hold off on the beans to start a new year.
I would like to offer gratitude to all of you — if I call you “followers,” does that make this a cult? The plan for this blog was to provide a non-intrusive forum for anyone wanting to see how our house progress is coming along, and instead I intrude daily into your lives, offering up my faulty memories and possibly off-kilter theories, and so far you are following along.
I once wrote a poem about writing, and I said, for me, it was like breathing — just something I had to do, with no real choice in the matter. Then I stopped writing, except for leaving very long, rambling notes about work for my business partner Kara. And now I have started writing again. Which, when I think about it, is offering me both reflection and renewal. Gratitude to you, then, for helping me out on this rusty journey back.
This, then, is in my mind and my heart. So be it.