Today’s post is a lightly edited reprint from Thanksgiving, two years ago. In Canada, we celebrate this special holiday early in October, during the height of autumn. Of all seasons, I am most thankful for this one. And I just spent last weekend at my friend’s tree house by the lake. Her six-year-old grandson named it thus; I think he is on to something. This beautiful lake house is full of windows, and you see stunningly gorgeous deciduous trees everywhere you look.
As the seasons change, sunlight, moonlight, a hundred shades of green, multi-coloured foliage (ooh, the oranges and red this year), bare boughs, and snow all create their own magic at the lake. It feels like you are nestled into a tree house, even though it can sleep 18 kids, grandkids and assorted relatives and a couple of dogs. It is, in a word, magical. And this past weekend, pre-Thanksgiving 2023, I had the joy of savouring the splendour of all this beauty. This autumn is the most spectacular that I can remember.
So, I was awestruck in gratitude and wonder for the quiet and splendour wherever I turned my head. The scale was so heavily weighted in my favour.
As I wrote, two years ago, if you ever want to do a reality check, based on your own standards, turn your attention to what is going right, and how you have been helped in your lifetime. These things are easy to miss because problems demand our attention. They require us to do something. Things that are going well or how we are helped can easily slip through the cracks or fade into the woodwork. Not that we are unappreciative, but we can easily miss the ordinary.
Life is Something Like the 84th Problem
There’s a story about a farmer who came to see a sage, and to tell him about his numerous life difficulties. He told the sage about his farming troubles– drought or monsoons made his work difficult. He told the sage about his wife, for even though he loved her, certain things about her could use some fixing. Likewise with his children – yes, he loved them, but they weren’t turning out quite how he wanted.
So, he told the sage all of this, and when he was done, he asked the sage how he could help him with his troubles.
And the sage said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t help you.”
“What do you mean? You’re supposed to be a great teacher!” railed the farmer.
To which the sage replied, “It’s like this: all human beings have 83 problems; it’s a fact of life.”
Sure, a few more problems may go away now and then, but soon enough a few more will come. So, we’ll always have 83 problems.”
To which the farmer indignantly responded, “Then what’s the good of all your teaching?”
To which the sage replied, “My teaching can’t help with the 83 problems, but perhaps it can help with the 84th problem.”
“What is the 84th problem?” asked the farmer.
“The 84th problem is that we don’t want to have any problems.
That Wide-angle Lens
If the power goes out or the hot water heater breaks down, we notice how great a shower feels because we are now deprived. I think about my computer and how it helps me to do my work, write this blog, meet up with friends online, pay my bills…order a book or put one on hold at the library. Many known and unknown people are responsible for me having a computer on my desk. And if the internet stops working for a day…Yikes! Who gave us our first job or taught us to read? Or who saved our lives with surgery, medicine, or other life-giving opportunity?
One walk around the block this morning was filled with beautiful colours. And the people who smiled and said hello also brightened my day. I’m not speaking of rose-coloured glasses, but rather that wide-angle lens. A way to capture the whole scene and not just what needs fixing, solving or learning to live with. Bringing some balance to the mistaken view that if you do everything right, nothing will go wrong. Rather, even when things go wrong, as they inevitably well, many things still go right.
I find it remarkable that we have a national holiday to celebrate what we are thankful for.
Each year at Thanksgiving dinner, we have a tradition of speaking about what we are grateful for. This includes the youngest through to the oldest. However, in the last twelve years or so, we added a small tree (some years it was paper, now it is metal) and a stack of handmade construction paper leaves, in fall colours, where we each write out what we are thankful for and attach our leaf to the tree. Before dinner, we each read aloud what we wrote. It is a special ritual that our family and friends look forward to.
If we want to decrease suffering, gratitude is pretty much a foolproof method of doing so.
My friend Patricia sent me this quote from one of her artist friends, and I think it is perfect for just this occasion:
“I want to spend the rest of my life rejoicing in the beauty of this world and finding a million ways to say thank you.” by Anne Schrievogel
Note 1:) A special thank you to Dr. Jinroh Itami, and his teachers, thanks to whom I have something to offer and to live by. I am always grateful to Wellspring Calgary, The ToDo Institute, and all the wonderful people I am honoured to spend time with through my work. This includes you, dear reader. And to my precious family and friends, including inlaws, outlaws, and my 42nd cousins once removed.
Note: 2) I wish my Canadian readers a special Thanksgiving weekend. It is my favourite holiday and allows us to count our blessings formally. You, dear readers, keep me company as we navigate this tender, wondrous and oftentimes difficult life. Your encouraging words are heartfelt and appreciated. Please accept mine, as we cheer each other along. A deep bow. Warmly, Trudy
PS A little extra from the well-loved Brother David Steindl-Rast A Grateful Day