It’s been overcast and rainy for the last six days here in Minnesota. Today I went outside shortly after waking to stand on the dock. I could hear the resident beaver chomping on some old lily pads as he poked around in the reeds, and the robins that are still here, even though it’s December, were chirping in the bare tree branches. A bright green kayak was resting on the neighbor’s dock, now put away for the winter months, and a hawk circled far above my head, piercing the air once with its call. The lake was utterly still, and the reflection of the skeleton trees along the shoreline stared back at me like a challenge to discern what is real and what is an illusion.
The grey days have started to take a toll, I think. Overly warm weather for this time of the year in combination with constant dampness, and a landscape that seems discontent with its conditions is a combination challenging even for the cheeriest of souls. Some kind of rodent ate part of a shoe that I’d left on the back deck last night, the cream that I wanted to put in my coffee was already sour when I opened the bottle, and our car is in the shop for the second time in a month. And today is my last day of work at a job that I didn’t choose to leave, after ten years of service. Life feels hard, more often than not right now. There is much to lament, if lamenting is what I want to do.
But then I look to my right, and I see love and support in the form of flowers that my spouse brought home last night because he could tell I was having a tough week. I can hear joy in the form of my four year old upstairs chattering about something that is exciting to a four year old. Each time I look at my work email, I find a new message from a colleague wishing me well as I wrap things up and the opportunity to appreciate a kind word of acknowledgement. I take a sip of hot coffee, and it’s still satisfying, even without the cream. Being down a car today means that perhaps I can wait until tomorrow or Monday to ship my computer back to the corporate office and instead use my last evening “after work” to relax by the fire. The rodent who ate part of my shoe hopefully got the satisfaction he needed from his nibbling. At any rate, I can still wear the shoe, and it was a mud shoe anyway. David Cain, blogger at Raptitude, writes of something called “radical gratitude”:
Radical gratitude is simply a way of challenging our initial feeling that a new development is wholly bad and that our moping and anger is justified, exploring instead what might also good about it.
The lake remains still and the sky overcast and grey. The reflection of the skeleton trees remains, and the challenge with it. But there is goodness to be found despite the dreariness of the days. In the reflection of the trees I can see hints of movement. I can see the illusion start to dissipate even as parts of the reflection remain visible, and I’m reminded that even grey days provide moments for which to give thanks. As Mary Oliver once wrote, “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”