A dear and gentle friend of mine recently sent me a TED Talk video. It was given by Louie Schwartzberg and addressed the issues of gratitude and nature. Waking up early as I often do, I watched it in the pre-dawn morning. It was the best time to watch it as I was rested, boosted by my first cup of coffee, and open to hearing and feeling what Mr. Schwartzberg had to say. It also was a time when Louie, our older dog, was peacefully napping, and Denni, our Deva terrier, was content with the snuggling she’d received before I was out of bed.
Through the use of beautiful music and visual images, Schwartzberg conveyed what he described as the “beauty and seduction” of nature and of being grateful. He spoke eloquently of “A universe that celebrates life,” and how we as a species protect what we fall in love with. I took some exception to the last words. Our behavior towards the Earth raises large questions about our love for this planet. That aside, I consider what the message of gratitude means to my life and that of others.
As I write this piece in the confines of my favorite coffee shop, I look forward to later this morning going to the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum. It is a place I often go to walk about the desert, seeing the native plants and especially the animals of this region. I’m always glad to say hi to the Mexican Wolves, and to laugh at the silly little guys (and girls) that are the prairie dogs. Today will bring a special gift. It has been more than a year since I’ve been able to see the raptors fly. Harris hawks, a barn owl, and if I’m lucky, the now mature Caracara will take to the sky and show what amazing and wondrous birds they are. Because of COVID, they have not been on exhibit, and I have missed them dearly.
I wonder if by some magical entity we were made to create a list of those things we are grateful for and those things for which we feel an absence of gratitude. Which list would be longer? And in those lists, what gifts we are we given, with no material cost, and those things we have no control over, and yet feel anger towards. I remember upon returning from Vietnam, I thought I would forever be grateful for a clean glass of ice water. Now I complain about the water pressure not being exactly what I want or there not being enough hot water to take a ten or fifteen-minute shower. My various complaints take on an ugly personality of their own – my coffee is not warm enough, the driver behind me driving to close, why do I have to eat left-overs from the meal I thought delicious yesterday. Petty s…, that means nothing.
OK David, start a list of the gifts you’ve been given. I’m healthy, I have a nice place to live, I woke up alive this morning, I have good food, good water, I have enough money, I have a reliable car, people I love and who love me, stores stocked with anything I might want…, …., … The list could go on far longer than I have the patience to write. And when I’m in this mood, I ask myself, how often do I stop, take notice, and say “Thanks.”
Yes, this is a sermon, and maybe my actual intent is to take the time to consider what I’m writing, but to consider what I have. And I have much. And I’d guess anyone who might read this also has much. It is by chance that in a few days we will celebrate Thanksgiving. Will we stop for the 30 seconds when we openly acknowledge our blessings and then down far more food than a grown elephant needs, only to complain that we ate too much, that our NFL team lost a game, and that gas is way too expensive?
It’s time I end this tirade and say once again, I’m going to attempt to be more of who I want to be and less of who I’m inclined to be. I think I want to be more like Louie and Denni, or maybe the Harris hawk I will see this morning. My dogs are always dogs. They are content with being fed, a tummy rub, a chance to catch a lizard and then take a nap. They don’t whine when something goes wrong, they seem to accept it as one more aspect of life, and then move on to the next moment. I can’t help but believe that incredible hawk feels elation in soaring above the desert, feeling the freedom to not worry about what it has or does not have. It goes about just being what it is, a hawk. And in its hawkness, it lives and is a part of the seduction of the beauty that is there for us to know.
Go well. David
Louie’s Book Bark
Debra VanDeventer, is the author of Out of the Crayon Box. A memoir of the life of a teacher for more than thirty-seven years. With humor and insight she tells the reader of the joy of her career and of the uncertainties of leaving the life she’s know for more then three decades. A question of “what next,” is something many of us ask upon an important change in life. Debra takes us in the classroom and shows us the beauty of children, the difficulties faced daily by teacher’s as well as the challenge of finding our way when that part of life ends and a new adventure begins. This writer does not hold back on expressing the difficulties of answering the question of “who am I now.” This book is a delight for all, not only teachers, but for all who face change. Do yourself a favor, read this book.