Gratitude Is a Prayer

I rarely make new year’s resolutions.  Instead I usually spend new years eve reflecting on the year leaving and its gifts.  As we say hello to 2020 I am filled with amazement when I look back over 2019 and really count all the unexpected things that have transpired.  It was a year filled with the ache of loss at the year marker of my dad’s passing, a reconnection with the foster family that cared for me from birth to 2 years, the unexpected discovery of my birth family through a 2018 Christmas gift of Ancestry DNA given by my sister in law, and the decision of my husband and I to make a physical move toward being closer to family. It was a year of realizing some creative aspirations and growing as an artist, and of course, another year of incredible beauty in the mossy realms.  I am deeply grateful for it all.

For some years now I have had a little ritual of gratitude, birthed from the awe and solace I have always found in nature.  Over time this sweet ritual has spilled over into almost every aspect of my life.  It started early one morning as I hiked off trail into the towering coastal pines.  Though it is one of so many experiences I’ve had like it, I remember that morning well.  The dawn light was so golden, slowly turning the thick dark trees at the edge of the clear cut into a stunning cinnamon colored forest as the sunlight slipped through them. As the sun moved, the light began to spill in golden puddles onto the ferns, stumps and mossy logs on the forest floor.  And then the deer appeared.  Deer have an amazing way of moving through the forest with little sound. I suddenly noticed the doe as it silently moved into a lighted space on the hill below me and she had a fawn. For a moment they were both bathed in that golden light like some kind of perfect benediction. I couldn’t even raise my camera, the moment felt so sacred.  I found my eyes welling with tears whispering “Thank you” over and over.

The deer moved on, the sun shifted, got higher in the sky, lighter and lost it’s golden hue, but that experience stayed with me. From that point on, I have made a practice of gratitude.  Gratitude is a huge part of my spirituality.  Naturally I frequently thank people for their hard work, acts of kindness, friendships, but I also extend my thanks in other ways.  I like to thank the wilderness trails when I finish traversing them, the rocky outcroppings when I meditate on them, the small trees growing to heal the rawness that used to be the clear cut.

I thank the stumps of old giant trees, mossy forest spaces when I spend time there, the animals I am blessed to encounter, the beach and the ocean cliffs after I watch them do their tidal dances. I thank the places where I write, the places where I weep.  I thank guest rooms and hotel rooms for giving me space to relax, I thank houses I’ve spent time in and trains and planes that have taken me across the country.

I thank people and animals, experiences good and bad. I say these words out loud whenever I can but sometimes when that is not possible, the words are silent, directed with deep intent.  I do this because I believe gratitude is a way of connecting to the divine.  I do this because it makes me aware of the many blessings I have in an often busy life where it can be easy to forget and because I believe all things, animals, people, places, carry energy, share energy and when I leave those spaces, I want to add something positive, leave some good behind me.  I choose to believe that there is a kind of grace that is a byproduct of gratitude. It may be the closest I can ever really come to experiencing real humility.

There is a wonderful quote by Bill Wilson, founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, that sums it up pretty well.  “I try hard to hold fast to the truth that a full and thankful heart cannot entertain great conceits. When brimming with gratitude, one’s heartbeat must surely result in outgoing love, the finest emotion we can ever know.”

So there are no resolutions for me at the start of this year,  just a recommitment to what I’m doing that seems to be working and a sense of excitement for what is to come.  I say goodbye to 2019 with this genuine and simple prayer.  “Thank you.”

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