After a very warm October and November, fall seems to have truly arrived in Southern California. Today there is a crisp wind, bright trees in autumn shades, and clear blue skies. Soon Thanksgiving will be here, and like everything else in 2020, it will be different. Looking out on our serene valley, it is easy to believe all is right with the world, but we all know that is not true. The pandemic is worsening. More people are dying, and many have lost cherished friends and family. There is political unease and social unrest.
Yet this is the season to be grateful. And I wonder if you feel the way I do. In spite of all the challenging and dire happenings, I have deep gratitude and a sense that we will look back on this time not only surprised at our own resiliency but also aware of an invisible web of hope, good will, and mutual regard that developed and sustained us under these harsh circumstances. Surprisingly, in this difficult year, gratitude was not hard to find.
One thing I have discovered is that nature is constant and nurtures our souls. On a recent short trip along the coast, the turquoise-and-indigo sea revealed the spouts and breachings of a pod of migrating whales. Pelicans, gulls, and other sea birds called and soared on the cool coastal wind. A platform for fishing nets held several sea lions barking and basking in the sun. I can breathe deep when I am in nature, and somehow my perspective changes.
Traveling farther, across from the crystal sea were mountains and chapparal that had been strafed by fire this summer. We know that the earth begins to restore itself within days after a fire. Vegetation starts growing at the base of burned-out trees, and bushes and grasses sprout quickly, providing food for wild animals that start returning within weeks after a fire. Nature provides us with sensory reminders of renewal.
In our isolation and sadness, many of us brought new lives into our homes in the form of creatures. Unconditional love, purchased perhaps, but treasured none the less. And those who rescued rejected animals have mutual gratitude—a double portion to brighten their lives.
These days, those whom we hold dear seem more precious. Friends and family are in our thoughts and hearts more than ever, and if we can meet physically, we feel truly blessed. Each individual is a gift that we really look at and listen to, whether by phone, text, or even letter. And neighbors … God bless our neighbors, who in the early days brought us groceries and made sure we had everything we needed. They are now more like family.
There are other things for which I am grateful. Two vaccines that are promising. The ability to start quilting again, and the two-year-old “new” sewing machine I finally became acquainted with. Rediscovering crossword puzzles, baking, reading books that were on my “someday” list, and writing are all treasures I had put on a shelf.
When I look at my list, I realize there is a connecting thread: time. The circumstances of our world have given us time to look, to notice, to become aware, to create and nurture, to love, to see, and to realize we are surrounded not only by riches and blessings but by things that need tending to. And so … we abide, we think, and we plan. Now that we truly know, we cannot go back, but we can move ahead together. May this Thanksgiving be the start of something new and beautiful for all of us.