Thanksgiving Day. Giving thanks is a special case of living mindfully, which is always a good idea, whether or not there's an open manhole a few steps ahead. The older I get, the more mindfully (and thankfully) I try to live, not only because I've discovered so many fascinating things to be mindul of (and thankful for) but also because I don't have an unlimited number of years yet to be mindful.
It is a very good time to be mindful. When I was young I knew what a “water bear” was from crude little drawings in a library book, but now I can see them with electron-microscopic clarity, and understand that surviving from the Cambrian era, well, damn, that can't have been easy. (It's easier to grasp a billion years when you're fifty-six than when you're seven.) And I always thought that barred spiral galaxies were the coolest kinds, but it wasn't until the past few years that the Hubble Space Telescope could show them in a glory that still makes me gasp. There may be better times to live in the future (and I have strong faith that there will be) but there have never been better ones in the past.
This year's Thanksgiving Day is a little more poignant than most. Carol and I have been apart for a month now, and there's nothing to make you feel thankful for something like losing it, even for a little while. (She'll be coming home soon, soon enough that I've begun washing towels, rugs, and the big comforter on our bed. Living with multiple dogs is a grubby business.) And, as I've related privately to some of my online friends, this has been a weirdly grim six weeks in and around my inner circle. The number of deaths, major surgeries, and life-threatening diagnoses among people I care about spiked a couple of weeks ago, and it wasn't just deaths among the old, but among young people in their 30s and 40s with small children at home. Tragedy clusters sometimes. Be thankful in the calm between storms.
I am. For Carol, of course, more than anything else on Earth. For small things (like water bears, galvanized iron pipe fittings and Compactron tubes) and big things (barred spiral galaxies, comets, icebergs) and things distant in time more than space. (Origen, Lady Julian of Norwich, Roger Bacon, the Colossus of Rhodes, glyptodonts.) I am very thankful for my parents, who suffered too much and died too young but never failed me in any way even if they imperfectly understood me, and for people like Aunt Kathleen and Uncle Louie, who seemed to like me more than I sometimes deserved. I am very thankful for my sister Gretchen, she of wry humor and skilled hands, and my cousin Rose, who walked between the railroad tracks with me because that was just how life worked in 1957. I am thankful that my brother-in-law Bill happened to Gretchen when she most needed him, and for the girls they have brought into the world (better late than never!) who are growing up fast and may well live into the 22nd century. I'm thankful for Carol's sister, her mom (and her dad, whom we all miss keenly) and our nephews Matt and Brian, both now men in their own right. Close family ends there, but moving outward the lotus opens up quickly, with cousins and friends and mentors and other people who have changed my life without intending to, nor fully grasping the impact of their kindness and counsel.
I have a private prayer that I say every night, in my last moments of mindfulness before turning out the light, telling Carol that I love her most of all, and stilling the racket in the back of my head:
Lord God, I thank you for letting me live in this time, in this place, in these circumstances, among these good people, and within this beautiful and extravagant creation!
For so it is, and so I do.
In case anyone is wondering, I won't be by myself all day. I'll be having dinner with some folks from the local Bichon Frise club, people who truly have bichons like some people have mice. I'll be able to wrestle with a huge bichon named Jackie Gleason (all 26 pounds of him!) and perhaps get a look at our host's Mog collection. I'm counting the days until Carol comes home, but in the meantime, I'm mindful of the fact that life could be a whole lot worse!