Friday, May 11, 2012

Trading Wrath for Gratitude

   Today I cracked open our book club's current selection, which we'll discuss over dinner in June, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Just in case you don't know, this is a novel partially set in my beloved home state of Oklahoma, during the brutal Depression and Dust Bowl. It follows the struggle of a native Oklahoma family who suffers from all the ramifications of the agricultural and economic failures of that time. This was a century ago, but how many bells are ringing in your heart right now?


   I sat down to start this papery adventure after a morning of cruising junk and antique shops that were as lovely as they were tiny and unique, spending a few dollars on perfectly frivolous luxuries. I bought a heavy turquoise pendant handing from an old shoelace; a super long chain necklace with a kitschy locked heart charm at the bottom that desperately wants to be gold when it grows up; a medium sized but tarnished silver tray with wooden handles, the kind you use to serve breakfast in bed or maybe decorate a vintage-themed outdoor wedding which is coming up in seven days; three threadbare cotton handkerchiefs; a set of pink seashell-encrusted salt and pepper shakers from Florida; and an opulently  matted and framed oil painting for my dining room. None of these things were expensive (though the oil painting really should have been), but I acknowledge that none of them are really necessary, either. My life is brimming with undeserved luxury, and I know it.

   In addition to the material bounty, it happens that I soaked up the first four chapters of Grapes of Wrath while soft, cool rain fell in steady showers all over this grand land and flowers bloomed in every available container.

   The stark contrast between feast and famine, parched and verdant, would not be lost on any reader.

   This year, today, in this entire lifetime, I am so grateful. For the rain which is nourishing us again and for the milder temperatures we are enjoying at the moment. For the fields that are stacked deep and dotted and dressed with hundreds of beautiful, golden bales of soft hay. For every lake, river, and pond that glimmers past its banks with clean water. For the animals and gardens that feed not just our bellies, but also our souls. For the people who drive and toil toward every paycheck, especially my husband who has my deepest admiration.

   I am so thankful for living, breathing romance and for solid friendships and for children with better memories than I had feared. I am thankful that for every heartache we see hope. That for every frustration we eventually find relief. And that for every drought, somehow, mercifully, we get to see green again. I am really thankful that my bees are happy and that my watermelon vines are blooming, you guys. You cannot even imagine!

"The unthankful heart... discovers no mercies; 
but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, 
as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, 
some heavenly blessings!"  
~Henry Ward Beecher

   I still believe very much in miracles. The small, nearly imperceptible sort that we sometimes call minutiae and also the most shocking, most unlikely ones, the ones that make headlines. Naturally tragedies continue and not every prayer is answered the way we expect. But unplanned joy and sudden relief are also facts of life. We just have to seek them out and then celebrate them when they appear. 

   Enjoy the lushness while you have it, however it looks for your life, today. Cultivate joy. Give thanks. Wear way too many necklaces that don't match, it's probably fine. Keep hope simmering on the back burner. It will nourish you from the inside out and ready you for the next lean year.

By the Way, Someone is Grateful for You, Too.


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