…Let Slip Life Again.
…Let Slip Life Again.
Video studio inside a deer blind inside a beer garden inside Wisconsin inside January. ???
(Originally published in the Wisconsin State Journal.)
Due to the calendar contortions required to arrange and navigate the holiday publishing schedule, I am composing this column during the single digit dates of December. This is tricky, as I have no way of anticipating what grief or joy will have transpired in the interim. Or, to put it in contemporary terms: How many Twitter hashtags will have risen and fallen?
In light of this uncertainty, I choose for my subject today a word that will apply whatever the state of things—or the state of me—when this little essay is published: gratitude.
Gratitude. Such a lovely word. Humble and warm. Humble, because it’s not a word you use if you think you did everything yourself. Humble, because no matter how hard you did work at whatever it is you’re grateful for, you know—and more importantly, acknowledge—there was some luck involved. Warm, because gratitude is not compatible with a cold soul. Warm, because gratitude radiates, like the gentle rays of a heart-sized sun. Gratitude goes softly out and does good works—which generate more gratitude. Gratitude is renewable energy.
Gratitude, because to offer anything less would be to ignore all privilege. The privilege of existence. The privilege of health. The privilege of privilege. And now we are back at humility—or ought to be.
Gratitude, because the world is awash with the sour surf of opposing sentiments.
Gratitude, for those who show us the same.
Gratitude, even in grumpiness. Which is to say I am not talking all hosannas, hugs, and puppies here, I am talking about perspective and preponderance and relativity and a sideways glance into the cosmic mirror, where behind me I spy millions of souls who would give all they own for just one of my disappointing Tuesdays. Gratitude as my moral duty.
Gratitude, because it’s so easy. A note. A word. You don’t even have to talk. Gratitude can be soundless. You can speak it with your eyes. Share it with a smile. Weave it into your works. You can kneel down and offer it up.
Gratitude. A triple-syllabic salutation to the six directions, whichever way you’re pointing. The echoes go on and on. The echoes are gratitude returning. There is the idea among psychologists that gratitude can be cultivated. Put it out there and it comes back to you.
Gratitude as a practice. As an intentional act. Gratitude in the form of reflection. A quiet moment. A look back.
Gratitude, not as obligation but as celebration.
Gratitude, with our loved ones in mind. The ones who suffer our ingratitudes with grace, and that grace yet another reason for gratitude. Grace: cousin and catalyst to gratitude.
Gratitude, because as this year draws to a close I am reminded it was another year granted, not guaranteed, and therefore not taken for granted.
Gratitude, no matter the season.
Tomorrow night I’m going to read some new things, tell some old things, and in short just let’er rip, see where we end up. Tickets available here. Meanwhile, photos.
Thank you for the hoodie.
Thank you for the mouse traps.
Why we need mouse traps:
Even at my non-famous level (9 out of 10 times no one recognizes me at the Farm & Fleet) (and then half the time it’s a relative, neighbor, or Moose Country 106.7 listener), my calendar is such that I meet many, many thoughtful people in passing and simply cannot do justice to their kindnesses or adequately recognize their hard work or support their latest project the way they might hope. I keep a box of books and notes and CDs and miscellaneous objects given to me on the road, and when I can I jot a note or make a mention. Thus, Posts from the Box.
People do nice things. These are hand-tooled and hand-made by a reader. As a teetotal I use the can coozies to hold my sparkling water while I’m working in the pole barn (I’m just a rough boy) and as a non-gambler I use the dice cup to…well, you see. It’s over there on my desk right now.
Janke Book Store in Wausau is one of the many indies to whom I owe my career. They are also Wisconsin’s oldest bookstore…and I am growing old with them. Thank you to Jane for the photos, one from 2003 and one from 2013.
After an evening speaking engagement, I stopped at a gas station and bought the drink pictured above. During the short drive home, I drank about half of it. Parked the van in the garage and left the beverage in the cupholder. The next day I was up early to speak at a local school. When I finished doing two presentations I was a tad dry, so just as I was about to drive off I reached down for the drink and took an absentminded swig. The weight of the bottle shifted oddly as I lowered it. I looked, and was surprised to see a used tea bag suspended in the liquid. My wife and daughters sometimes take tea for the drive to school, but it still seemed an odd thing to do.
Then I looked closer. Yah. That’s a drowned mouse.
I bailed out of the van. Aware that I was in full view of a school full of impressionable children, I ducked down beside the back bumper and blew that mouthful of bad pop all over the blacktop. Even as I was spitting like a mad cat with a mouthful of stinkbugs, I was offering prayers of gratitude that I had discovered the mouse before I swallowed. As discreetly as I could, I got back in the van, found a mouseless bottle of water and commenced to swish and spit like I was in some sort of dental appointment Olympics.
I also looked more closely at the contaminated bottle. Yah. Not one, but two mice.
If you wanna, I got closeups after the break. (more…)
Made some very firm rules about no cats in my office. To go along with the very firm rules about no cats on the furniture. You see how it goes.