In Gratitude

Here and there along the trail, apple trees have taken root, and their early white blossoms are decorating the trail’s edges like lace trim peeking out from the startling and tender yellow-green leaves of trees. The blossoms liberally scent the trail long before they’re approached, and as we pass, the perfume circles around us and lingers. We’re walking in an apple blossom cloud. It becomes a vivid part of the memory of our spring walks. I often wonder how Clancy and Riley perceive this heady fragrance, given that their sense of smell is 100,000 times better than mine: they can smell electricity, underground gas, drugs, and the bio-chemical and electrical changes that signify epilepsy and cancer. I am, by comparison, an olfactory dunce, lost in the scent of apple blossoms…and quite content to be so.

The pups and I headed out late yesterday afternoon and enjoyed the bright clear colors fading into the deeper shadows. Touring the yard when we returned, we saw the first tulip blooming and others just on the cusp of opening to the world.

We narrowly escaped frost a few nights ago, and temperatures in the 80’s are forecast for this weekend. Today is chillier, and it has been raining since the early hours of this new day.

Yesterday’s warmth and sunshine; todays mysterious darkness and silver rainfall, punctuated by the haunting and melancholy cry of our resident green heron…I can’t predict how all of this shifting variability will affect the gardens, so I’m using the surprises of the season as reminders to be present and to locate the “gratitude handles” each day is offering.

March has been perplexing and worrying, but equally beautiful and glorious. I’m trying to enjoy the ride. This is not so simple, I know, for the local apple growers who could lose a year’s crop and considerable income if the early budding produces fruit that may yet be killed by frost, so I hold the outcomes of this season close to my heart and hope those who could suffer because of it will not.

I watched an old movie last weekend. A hackneyed storyline, but well-cast and funny, anyway: City folk moved to the country and bought a dump, turned it into a charming home and small farm, and entered into the rural community life, overcoming the native suspicion of most, but not all of their neighbors. Then (the night of the annual countywide dance) the inevitable fire blew through and destroyed the city people’s barn and outbuildings. The next morning, surveying their loss, they expressed defeat and considered leaving, when who should appear but all their neighbors—the friendly and aloof, Republican and Democrat, rich and poor—in trucks and jalopies, with money, seeds, animals and goods to share, and their pledged assistance in rebuilding the now-accepted-newcomers’ farm…

We’re entering a time of year when people of the Christian faith most intimately consider suffering, compassion, death, and rebirth, but such themes are found intertwined in all of the world’s religions and mythologies, throughout history. The overwhelming beauty and intense sensual experience of spring seem to invite us to reflect upon life/death metaphors; we inherently know the rhythms of this circle: life leads to death, and back to new life.

Something must die for the loveliness of spring to exist; the counterbalance and contrast of death is necessary, and grief’s tears nourish the greening of what may come…we can hope suffering won’t happen in our lives and the lives of others, but of course it does, all the time.

While I’m enjoying the sights and smells of spring, even celebrating them with gratitude, others are dreading the loss of their livelihood. And I’m reminded, again, how I must train my heart to be sensitive and notice others’ suffering and loss the way my dogs can smell fingerprints, illness, and the presence of those who have passed along the trail before us. Connectedness and community can’t be maintained, let alone thrive, without such sensitivity and its necessary partnership with compassionate action in response.

Those who extoll the path of gratitude entreat us to give thanks for everything. It can make me feel that I’m defective. My first response to suffering is sorrow; were I more evolved spiritually, I’d experience this inherent feeling of gratitude for everything that came down the pike, so to speak.

But of course we’re not expected to be thankful for experiences of suffering, but for the opportunities to support each other through such times, and to help midwife whatever new life may come. Grateful for community and connection. Grateful for the chance to show up with provisions and commitment and grateful, too, when such reinforcements show up in trucks and jalopies, whatever form these take, for us.

During the Easter season, I like to watch the short (and mostly silent) film, The Red Balloon, created by the French film director, Albert Lamorisse. It’s about a small boy’s discovery of, and adventures with, a huge red balloon. It’s also about love, cruelty, suffering, death, and new life. Have you ever seen it? Lamorisse even named the little boy’s character Pascal (“Easter Child,” played by the director’s own son, also named Pascal).

Every year, while nature is blossoming and wrapping us in the resurrected scents of hope, and life is rising from the death to which it will again return, I watch The Red Balloon and remind myself that once we commit to love and support those relationships that matter—and they all do—there is no suffering that can impede deeper love, eternal renewal, and gratitude for the journey.

No posts next week: I’m going away with my beloved and setting down all electronics to play freely inside and outside together. We’re grateful for our house-sitters and the care they always give the 4-leggeds…

Joy to you, and to the rituals with which you welcome new life and honor what has passed to bring it forth.

10 thoughts on “In Gratitude

  1. Thank you for another beautiful reflection.

    This passage is so beautiful, I’ve pasted it into my album of cherished quotes:

    While I’m enjoying the sights and smells of spring, even celebrating them with gratitude, others are dreading the loss of their livelihood. And I’m reminded, again, how I must train my heart to be sensitive and notice others’ suffering and loss the way my dogs can smell fingerprints, illness, and the presence of those who have passed along the trail before us. Connectedness and community can’t be maintained, let alone thrive, without such sensitivity and its necessary partnership with compassionate action in response.

    Thank you!

    Safe and happy and blessed trip for you and P. I look forward to your return to the Daily Round!

  2. Sitting in your wonderful energy this morning Catherine…
    of which I am ‘grateful’ as it brings a message of rebirth
    and hope, that eternal thing with feathers.

    This spoke to my heart…’there is no suffering that can impede deeper love, eternal renewal, and gratitude for the journey.’

    With that I wish for you and your beloved a deep wellspring of
    renewal as you ‘play’ with one another.

    Happy Spring! 🙂

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