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I'm a woman entering "the third chapter" and fascinated by the journey.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Meditation on Thankfulness

Yes, I know that we've probably all had it up to wherever with Facebook "thankfulness" posts, but gratitude, as a habit of mind, has a lot going for it, even though neither the ancient nor the medieval philosophers put it on their list of major virtues. (For the record, the four cardinal virtues are prudence, justice, temperance, and courage, accompanied by the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity--all good things and a nice balance to the seven deadly sins.) If nothing else, gratitude seems to be good for our health, at least according to people who study what has come to be called positive psychology: a mindset of thankfulness seems to boost the immune system and help people deal with stress. Counting your blessings seems to help more than counting to ten.

So, in no particular order, things for which I am grateful:
  • Biodiversity. Without it, how boring would life be? Imagine if all we ever saw were buildings and people (as delightful as humans and architecture can be).
  • Ecosystem services. While there are many more of these than I am aware of, given my lack of scientific training, let me take a moment to praise trees and other deep-rooted plants. They give us oxygen, filter pollutants from the soil, and hold soil in place so that the planet consists of more than bare rock and muddy streams.
  • Friends. Companions on life's journey make the trip much more fun and interesting.
  • Cats. Yes, outdoor cats may be the most destructive of all non-native species in North America, but the purr of a happy housecat is one of the most soothing sounds I know. (So bring your cats in the house and listen to them. Purring is especially soothing when one is trying to get to sleep, something that cats do much more easily than people.)
  • Beauty. The world is full of it, and too many of us are focused on electronic gadgets of various kinds to notice (writes a woman who is at the moment typing on one of said gadgets). I cannot believe that Skyrim's graphics are in any way superior to a morning or evening sky. So let me end this post by sharing one of the poems of my misspent youth (when I spent way more hours with my nose in books than paying attention to the world around me, moderation not being a virtue I had developed): Sara Teasdale's "Barter."
Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sing,
And children's faces looking up,
Holding wonder like a cup.

Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like the curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit's still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.

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