Giving Thanks (At A Distance)
Some of my favorite memories from these past two years happened around the dinner table when my aunt and uncle and 4-year-old cousin came over on the weekends. We’d ask each other a “question of the day” and often it led to discussing what we’re grateful for. Nobody’s asked me that in a while, so I’ve had a lot of time to think about my answers, but also the way I approach the question in the first place. I noticed that my feelings of gratitude have always come with nostalgia or sadness or longing or joy, so I’ve been trying to isolate them as they are. This new tactic has led to moments of me tearing up in the most random places — at a pub in conversation, on a park bench, the bus. It feels like a completely new virtue to me. Maybe it is.
Here are some small things I’m thankful for, just for their own sake:
Long phone calls. When my mom stays at work after she’s done and talks to me for 45 minutes. When my best friend calls me on her fall break and we talk for two and a half hours. When my dad picks up my FaceTime call when he’s in the middle of work or running errands. I am so lucky to have people who are willing to listen to me, and who I am eager to learn from. Despite the distance.
Risotto. Mushroom soup. Tofu bowls. Chickpea salad. Sourdough bread. Biscoff cookies. Pears. Dark chocolate. Matcha. Popcorn. Pasta with pink sauce. Turkish eggs. Making something with my two hands, and consuming it in love. Sharing it, sometimes. When I can.
The transparent daytime moon. I don’t see it that often these days since blue skies are so rare, but when it appears it feels like a blessing. A little gift from the universe. On Thursday morning I sat on a bench and stared at it for ten minutes. I wanted to wrap the blue sky around me like a blanket and use the moon as my pillow. Little things like this make me want to love the world with everything I have. What a feeling.
Poetry. Mary Oliver in the morning. Joy Harjo after dinner. Wendy Cope at lunch. Jane Hirshfield before bed. Ada Limón on the train. Wendell Berry in the park. Carrying them all in my pocket, and sharing them with people I love.
There’s a lot more that I can’t think of right now, but I’ll feel it when they come around. That deep, pulsing gratitude, when you’re brushing your teeth after a good day and feeling grateful to be alive. I don’t want to label or disguise it — I just want to hold it, as it is. Gently.
“A Poem of Thanks” by Wendell Berry:
I have been spared another day to come into this night as though there is a mercy in things mindful of me. Love, cast all thought aside. I cast aside all thought. Our bodies enter their brief precedence, surrounded by their sleep. Through you I rise, and you through me, into the joy we make, but may not keep.
I always say “thank you”. I kiss my family members on both cheeks. But I don’t think I truly understood how it felt to be grateful until early September, in the security line of the airport as I left to move halfway across the world (for the second first time). It was that split second when I turned around the first time, realizing that they hadn’t left. I felt it, really deep. I turned my head again and again and again. They stayed until I could barely see their hands above the crowd. I think of reuniting with them at the airport next month, and I feel it again. Happiness is of the heart, but gratitude is of the bones. There is a space between both. I am finally learning how to close it.
Mary Oliver wrote in “I Have Just Said”:
All I know Is that “thank you” should appear Somewhere. So, just in case I can’t find The perfect place- “Thank you, thank you.”
Some Poems by Indigenous Poets
What I Enjoyed This Week
“Ripeness” by Jane Hirshfield. This poem really stuck with me this week. I love this metaphor of ripeness as vulnerability, how we are often at our best when we are soft, how our softness means harvesting something from deep within us. How often do we let ourselves harvest, by falling away with ease? By letting go and giving in? It reminds me of Mary Oliver’s “let the soft animal of your body / love what it loves”. To let your body / love this world / that gave itself to your care / in all of its ripeness
“Ada Limón on Preparing the Body for a Reopened World” via LitHub. This came out in April but I returned to it recently, finally catching up to the exhaustion that big city living has left me. I can, if I choose, only offer my head in its black box, or the words in my head, the words that are the remnants of a body. I am eager to live my life to the fullest, but I need to balance that with the rest and reflection that I have become so used to, so intimate with. And I just love Ada Limón and the way she sees the world with such ornate personal wisdom.
Other Wonderful Things
Japanese Breakfast’s Jubilee. I listened to this album when it came out this summer and loved a few songs. I listened to it recently in full and looped it 14 times in one day. Funny how music works. Anyway, it’s brilliant and beautiful. My original favorites were “Kokomo, IN” and “Paprika”, but now I have fallen in love with “Sit”.
I watched The Way He Looks for the first time in six years, and I really think the movies that stick with you at fifteen will stick with you forever. It’s a coming-of-age Brazillian film about a blind teenager searching for independence. The soundtrack is still one of my favorites. If you can find it online, I really do recommend. It’s based on this short film.
The Smartify app. I took it to a museum with my friends and we had so much fun scanning the paintings and reading about them. You can also favorite the ones you like and keep them in the app for later, which I really love.
Thank you (again). For reading, and just because.