Hardiness comes in all forms. Fading whitewash on the northside of a house. window glazing dulled by grit and rain lashing against it. Or a stone at the water’s edge. Years of tides, waves, storms crashing against it and its rough smoothness, a few sharpened barnacles. A redwood forest, astronomical growth standing firm against unimaginable winds, snows, ice storms.
And then, through ice-crusted snow, a slender, bright green spear, unnoticed, then longer. A bud, evolving yellow. One morning you go out to retrieve the newspaper and a nodding yellow trumpet greets you as if to say no matter what life will bloom.
I am speaking of the humbling side of being grateful. Not so much where I feel so good after a great meal, or time with friends, or that it snowed instead of rained– those are more things that make me happy. I guess it’s easy to blur the lines between real gratitude and being happy. Gratitude can make me happy, being happy can also make me grateful, but I think genuine gratitude is more than that.
These past few weeks I have sought out people who, however long or short ago, have done things that some people might overlook. A passing comment at a point of dispiritedness, an invitation when I felt most alone, or even way back in junior high when I was having a particularly rough time with parents, friends and just general growing up. A classmate’s mom took note of this and, with my mother’s permission, asked if I would like to walk with her in a nearby park, to see whether I would like to talk about things. At first I was pretty confused. This happened at a time when my own parents clearly (and probably deservedly) wanted to disown me. So why was this woman, someone else’s mom for that matter, showing me kindness? It wasn’t until later that I understood. Because no one else was. She did this as a reflection of true grace– something I did nothing to deserve certainly not in light of the trouble I’d gotten into –in herself. Before that time I don’t think I’d ever experienced such kindness. Oh, my grandmother had come to my defense a couple of times when I was little because she wanted to dote on me which is what grandparents do, but this was a lady unrelated to me who saw how alone I was and wanted to reach out to me. So I found my classmate and extended my thanks to her, through him.
Then there was a friend, more the mom of a friend of my son’s, who included me even when it was awkward to include a single mom. She saw me as a person, not just for the baggage I lugged around, the stigmas, the hardships, but beyond all that to who I was as a person. To these people I had dimension in and of myself, not for all that I was dealing with or had happen to me, but for me.
What I hope beyond all these specific memories is that I can recall the others. I am sure there have been many and I don’t want to leave one unacknowledged. How many times where people have dropped little sparkling gems into the waters that immerse my life and I hope someday to thank all of them. Sometimes it may not possible, but in my heart I will if not in some tangible form.
Probably everybody has seen this, usually early morning before the dew has dried on the grass. But sometimes on a bright sunny day the sparkle seems more brilliant than other days. I know the reason this happens- the light’s refraction creates a prism and reflects a shinier dot of water. I know the way the words are strung together to explain the phenomena that is light. But still, something escapes me.
Some part of the mystery I think we are not meant to know, just to enjoy.
There it was, shining bright as a diamond. A splash of brilliance with a tiny prism, shimmering and changing its color as I moved incrementally. Red orange yellow green blue indigo violet but even the words don’t cleverly or fully describe what I saw.
It’s like I said, you can describe, explain, clarify, define, elucidate, prove, and give evidence to, but knowing the why or the how does not in any way diminish the miracle of it. Who could imagine beyond science that the so-called properties of a tiny water droplet when shined on by the sun could produce such a magnificent display?
Not only does it nourish its life-givingness but it gives beauty. More nourishment.
A true gift.