Every morning I walk the dogs down to the corner of our road and look at the electric wires on one side and the long phone wire looped in the weeds on the other. I look out across the now bare field to the train tracks and hear the wind brushing through the weeds. The dogs stop to sniff. Sometimes a truck sneaks up behind me and I step to the side when I finally hear they are there.
At the top of the neighbor’s hill a giant John Deere tractor is parked with a two anhydrous tanks hooked to a finisher. It’s been parked there for a week and a half. Sometimes I’m early enough to see the sun break light over the eastern horizon.
What do I give thanks for every time I step foot on our road? That I am alive, blood and warmth running through my body, breath pushing my chest in and out, wind flowing through my body. I am grateful that I can walk the dogs down the road along this ground because I know one day I won’t be walking this road, looking at these fields, at that sunset. Even though whatever is next might be better, might even be the Kingdom come, it won’t be these beloved folds of ground that are no spectacular mountains and valleys and twisty roads.
I’m grateful for Bruce who loves me relentlessly, who runs his hands over me saying how beautiful I am. Accepting my body, those huge hips, rumpy rump and soft, slumpy belly has been hard in a culture that values rail thin women, that pressures big women to diet, and that splashes images of women who don’t look like me in movies and television. I am embarrassed still and wonder what he sees. Though when I see the paintings celebrating voluptuous women from the Renaissance, I begin to see what he is seeing. His love has helped me settle into my body and bless it, all of it.
Bruce knows how to fix things. Ever since we moved here, a couple windows were broken. The spring in the sash had been broken. Two contractors couldn’t figure it out. They thought we’d have to buy new windows plus one to match. But Bruce researched springs for sash windows and found how to fix the windows for $36.
I’m grateful to be riding at Everbold again. There is a community there that is based on kindness to our horses and to each other. As someone who has been pushed to the periphery of most communities so much that I gladly walk to the outside, it is a gift to find a group that is so accepting and welcoming. C.S. Lewis in The Four Loves said the best friendships often center on an interest. “Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.”
For those of us at this stable, it’s our love for horses that connects us. I found some close friends at this barn. These friendships began some thirty years ago when I boarded my Arab Quarterhorse there. Sometimes you meet Jesus in a stable, but it’s not just in a cold cave in the Middle East. Sometimes it can be a horse barn in the American Midwest. Not only have I met some wonderful people here, I’ve also gotten to know Tessie and Morgen by being able to ride them on good footing, indoors when the weather is cold or too windy or rainy. My apprehension towards riding Tessie has faded because I’ve learned how to connect with her. And I’m bringing Morgen under saddle and discovering how very kind she can be.
I grateful for the kick to write Spiritual Warhorse, which came from Tupelo Press’s challenge to raise money by writing thirty poems in thirty days. Were it not for that, the collection would not have been written and the stories banging around in my head would not have been allowed to step onto the page.
I also bought the rights back to my novel. While it feels like a window open with a spring breeze blowing through (they have not spread manure yet), I have also realized how daunting self-publishing is. There are lots of moving parts as far as getting the book a barcode, ISBN numbers, and entering it in Books in Print. But there is also a freedom in not waiting for the gatekeepers to decide whether they want to publish my books or not. I’m calling my press Light Catcher Press and hope to republish When the Plow Cuts in the coming year.
I’m grateful for a quiet year.
I’m grateful for the fierce red cat we took into our home as a favor to a friend who was grieving. I tell her she is a beautiful cat because she is not a good cat. She will hiss at you or bite if you touch her wrong and don’t you dare pick her up. But she will sit on Bruce’s lap when he reads his evening prayer. Her coat is silken to the touch. And it’s a good feeling to see her curled up on the pillows of my parents’ bed. She is teaching me about taking up the cross and she has become Bruce’s friend, though he thinks she would be better off in home where she could be the only cat.
But I miss Onyx, the black cat who wandered onto our property at the bottom of our field and worked his way into our house and our hearts. He failed one day and we couldn’t bring him back. A few months later another black cat landed in a ditch. Chris’s friend nursed him back to life and gave him to Chris. When she realized he was too nice to be a barn cat—he begged all night to be let in her house—I raised my hand, saying let him come here. And she generously gave him to us. Smudgie has taken Onyx’s place as the boss of the place. He too finds his way into Bruce’s lap. He is a good mouser.
I’m grateful for Night and Little Dog who settle in next to me on the couch and who run hard as they can across the fields, as beautiful as arrows shot from a bow.
I’m grateful for tea first thing in the morning, both iced Pure Leaf tea and hot English Breakfast tea with milk and Stevia. I mix the Pure Leaf with water for enough caffeine to kick me into the day. Then I drink plain water. I am grateful for water that has taught me how thirsty I am, how that desire for Diet Coke is really thirst, not addiction, how water quenches. I used to mistake thirst for hunger and snack on crackers. Finally I know when I want that long drink of water. I think about how Jesus said he’d give us water that would be so satisfying, we’d never thirst again. And there’s that great river that will come from a split in a mountain and grow trees for healing the nations. But for now it’s water from the faucet that I will drink.
Finally, I’m grateful for you, my readers and friends. Thank you for reading what I have to say, for your kind support, for commenting. You, my friends, are great good gifts.
What are you grateful for this year?