Lessons in Gratitude Day 999–On the Eve

I have sat many nights like this one, leaning against my study pillow, laptop propped on my lap, staring at the blinking cursor wondering what I would say and how I would tie it to gratitude. Here on the eve of 1,000 days I find myself in a quiet space. I ran from here to there and back and forth today, not lighting in any one place for very long. I began as always with my journal writing and my regular morning routine, though three hours later than usual, beginning at 8:15 rather than 5:15. I took care of the dog, then had breakfast with my daughter before heading to the grocery store to pick up some items for the sides I’m preparing for Christmas dinner. After a very brief respite, we drove a familiar stretch of Beltway to go to Virginia to pick up my sister to go with us to the movies and then took to the Beltway to take her home when it was over. Over the course of the day I drove nearly 100 miles and spent over three hours driving.

So now I sit at the end of this day contemplating simple blessings and grateful that I have a treasure trove of previous posts from which I can draw on an evening when I am tired and moving at a mentally slow pace. And so I spun the Random Number Generator wheel to select a posting from a earlier time. Rereading this post from July 2012 reminded me about how much I love nature and while I don’t get out into the wild open spaces as often as I’d like I have to be sure that I get out often enough to refresh my spirit. So enjoy this post and join me in my appreciation for the natural world.

I so love the natural world–animals, birds, trees, plants, even insects, arachnids and reptiles. This includes rocks and stars and all manner of things. Nature provides a virtually inexhaustible supply of fuel for gratitude. No matter how challenging or even mundane the circumstances are over the course of a day, week, month, etc., when I am outside I can look around me in nearly every direction and experience something beautiful or interesting or fascinating–sights, sounds, smells, physical sensations. The beautiful sights of the moonrise over the past week inspired many a sigh (and one or two haikus) and the feel and sound of the wind rustling through the trees behind the complex is luscious, particularly on a warm day. The smell of the yellowed grass in the fields and hills all around the Bay area remind me of the smell of wheat straw from the farm I used to work on many years ago. It’s all within a 30 second trip outside the door of my condo.

I have at times lamented living in this metropolitan, urban area. I’m a country girl at heart and know that someday I’ll find myself happily puttering around a farmlet of my very own. For now, I have to find the country–find nature–wherever I am. And although the sounds of the city surround me–trains and sirens, the nearby highway, and choppers and planes flying overhead–this evening I can also hear the sounds of the night critters waking up. It’s all pretty spectacular as far as I’m concerned.

Now sometimes I am a little less than enthusiastic about the sounds of the natural world. For the past few nights I’ve slept with both windows in my bedroom closed. Every morning around 5 some bird sets out making very loud screeching, trilling noises. The first morning I noticed this, as I balefully lifted my tired head from the pillow wishing the shrieking bird would be a great deal less enthusiastic in its greeting the morning, I envisioned some massive winged creature perched in the tops of the pines. As the days passed, I half considered leaving the windows open so I could wake up and stalk the bird–not to harm it, but primarily to satisfy my curiosity about what could be making such a shrill racket. But I decided that my stalking could wait for the weekend when it doesn’t matter if I don’t get enough sleep. Then, to my delight I actually heard the creature shrieking earlier this evening. Grabbing my camera, I headed out of the house following the direction the sound took me. To my even greater delight, I found the beastie, and though I didn’t get a clear shot of it–with my camera–I managed to snap a few photos that will help me identify it later. Contrary to my original sleepy, muddle-headed conjecture, the bird is rather small. My original thought upon viewing the fuzzy photo was that it was a black-capped chickadee, but upon visiting allaboutbirds.org, I quickly determined that is not what it is at all. I will be spending a little time cruising around the website searching for what the creature actually is and loving every minute of it.

Love of nature, like gratitude, keeps me grounded and connected to the planet. No matter what else is going on in my life, I still take delight in the world around me and the beings that inhabit it. I’ve been a would-be naturalist for my whole life and will always be intrigued by and grateful for the beauty of life that surrounds me. I look forward to keeping my eyes and ears open for my little friend in the days ahead. In the meantime, I think I’ll still be sleeping with my windows closed for a while longer.

Dark-eyed Junco Photo

Dark-eyed Junco

A December 2014 postscript to this post. The critter in question who created such delightful racket was a Dark-Eyed Junco. Once I discovered what it was, my irritation at it’s waking me each morning evaporated like morning dew on a summer’s day. Gratitude and love of nature once again trumps irritation. So it is and so it shall be!

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