There’s been a lot written in recent years about the importance of being grateful.
The traditional definition of gratitude is probably focused on the recognition and appreciation for things we receive, or actions that benefit us, particularly when we’ve done nothing to warrant these.
The problem with that idea, though, is that it implies the existence of a benefactor – someone who does something for us, or gives something to us. There are so many things in life to be grateful for and many of them just seem to happen without any external intervention; if you don’t believe in a Higher Power, there’s no one specific to thank. Perhaps the thing to do then, is to convert gratitude into an attitude.
It’s Saturday and I took a little more time over my breakfast than usual. The actual breakfast itself wasn’t very different from what I’d have on a normal weekday morning: buttered toast made from the seed- and nut-dense wholemeal bread we make at home, but with the addition of cheese. Rather than the instant coffee I usually drink, I made a pot of coffee; and I heated a generous quantity of milk to make sure the two or three cups I drank were all hot, the way I like my coffee.
Not a particularly special breakfast, but it provided me with a host of reasons to be grateful. Beyond the simple thankfulness for food on the table and the time to enjoy a meal on my own and the chance to read a book in peace and quiet, I looked around at the things I had chosen to eat: bread, butter, milk, cheese, coffee… food basics that it would be so easy to take for granted.
But cheese is a migraine trigger for many people; others are allergic to nuts and seeds, or to caffeine or gluten; others can’t eat dairy; and even many of those who do eat dairy would avoid the full fat milk I prefer. Pretty much everything on the table – things that many of us eat each day without a second thought – was a potential health hazard or allergen.
So today I’m being grateful for the everyday things in life, the things we don’t always notice or draw attention to because we’re so used to them being there.
I’m also being grateful for a temperament that allows me to see the positive, the observational skills that allow me to notice details, and a memory that allow me to conjure highlights from the past.
Of lemon trees and lizards
I write of lemon trees and lizards, tell how swallowtails
explore the bougainvillea bracts, and honeysuckle
drapes the wheelie bins. The cherries are pinkening
on the tree against a drop of piebald mountains.
She says: Your life sounds so amazing.
I think of damp veining the kitchen wall, a plague of aphids
and the need to fumigate. The post office is half an hour away;
still, I walk and check the mail box daily, just in case. En route
I drop the trash in someone else’s sweating bin
and buy a newspaper which brings no word of home.
I muse: Creative skill is in what’s left unsaid.
Smoke stifles the High Street: the hotel kitchen chimney
must be on fire again. Storks cast prehistoric shadows
on the castle tower. I breakfast in a stone-walled yard;
the toast is golden with olive oil and sunshine.