I’m not sure why November is the month so many of us decide to do (or not do) a thing for every day of it: NaNoWriMo, No-shave November, Dry November. In recent years, my social media feeds have been filled with daily gratitude postings. (This year, not so much. Shocker.)

These are bandwagons I’ve never hopped on. (I guess, in general , I’m not much of a bandwagon hopper.) But I was out for a beautiful walk on November 1, and happened to see some really cool things, and I decided that I’d really like to post one cool thing every day on Instagram.

This was not so much about practicing gratitude (because I don’t think this kind of thing does much for a gratitude practice) as about getting my body out in the world and moving. Moving my body should be easier than ever. I am working from home. If ever there were a time I could interrupt my day to take a lunchtime walk, now is it.

But it’s not happening. Last week, I could (and did) blame the election and all it brought forth, but this week, there’s no ready excuse. I just can’t seem to corral my day and/or work flow to make it happen. Or at least, that’s what I’m telling myself. The days are so short and the tasks so many. Once again, every day ends with a to-do list longer than the one that began it. (I suppose I’ll soon reach the point where catching up is so unattainable I’ll let that goal go, but I’m not quite there yet.)

So, my fledgling practice is not daily and its purpose isn’t gratitude, but this paying attention to finding cool things has me feeling all kinds of appreciative and grateful. Maybe that’s just because we have (at least for now) staved off an autocratic take-over (I hope), but maybe it’s because there’s a little more light in the room of my life and I can see in a way that’s been difficult for a long time.

But none of that is the point. I don’t really care to excavate the why or what for of this; I just want to enjoy (and share) the joy of finding cool things on a semi-regular basis. Like this:

I found this on a walk in the woods with my friend S. She came into my life when it looked a lot like that stump: hacked off, crumbling, broken. And she helped me believe that something new and strong could grow out of it. I didn’t know, back then, about nurse logs; this week they were everywhere on our walk. Most nurse logs are fallen trunks, but some are like this, supporting a whole new tree that pulls from a broken trunk the nutrients it needs to grow. On the day after our election was finally called, this was just the metaphor I needed to see.

The next day, another gift appeared. Monday morning I pulled up the blinds to a world iced in frost, the first freeze of fall blinking at us like a turn signal: winter’s just around the corner up ahead. I tried to capture the wonder of it from a distance–the sharp surprise, the sheerness of the glittery curtain covering roofs and pavement and branches–but my photo didn’t catch it. The image was just a sort of pretty picture.

Instead of shrugging and stepping onto the day’s treadmill–which I would have done if not for my desire to share a cool picture of cool things–I slipped into shoes and out into the backyard, where I noticed the last roses blooming at the top of the bush outside my bedroom window and saw a crystal fur coating the drying hydrangea petals. The air bit at my lungs, and I shivered in my flannel pajama pants, and Daisy–backlit by rising sun–looked at me with what seemed to be anticipation, the way she always does when any of her humans behave in atypical ways.

And all of it–the ice, the bite, the light, the wonder–made me happy, which matters, even if it’s just for a few moments.

If you’d like to follow along, you can find me on Instagram. I don’t post images every day, and I could well lose interest in this project or wander off course, and there will probably be too many pictures of my remaining ancient dog, but you’re free to join the ride.*

*Unless you’re a skeezy-looking guy who has one post and only 2 followers, in which case: Go away. And on the subject of Instagram and joy, I discovered #wienerdogworld which almost made me flirt with the idea getting another one even though I have sworn off them forever. Highly recommend that hashtag if you need an endorphin boost.

9 thoughts on “Gratitudish

  1. Kate says:

    You know I’m a fan of this idea – even if you wander off because “people who start projects and never finish are way cooler than people who never start projects”. I really have loved the pictures you share on IG and I’m glad you’re sharing some of them here. You’ve captured so much texture in the hydrangea picture.

    • Rita says:

      Oh, I want to embroider that on something (but not quite finish it)! I love taking pictures of texture–you wouldn’t believe how many I have of tree bark alone. No idea what I’ll do with them, but someday they’ll be there when I want them.

    • Rita says:

      I haven’t been on Instagram long. I’ve had an account for years but never used it until FB got so tiresome I decided to give it a try. It’s a much happier place for me–mostly just people I actually know posting pictures of their everyday. Maybe I like it more than I might otherwise have because of the pandemic, which has cut me off from most people I know. Anyhoo, look forward to seeing you there.

  2. Kari Grace Wagner says:

    I love that the two people above me are all interconnected to you.
    That is something to be grateful for.
    I am not a fan of the bandwagon things that November brings either but I do love the idea of finding gratefulness in this month because that is what I am working hard on too.
    I love these pictures, especially that tree. I have felt like that tree this year. I am beginning to feel more like the second picture though. Slowly.
    And dogs snuggled in blankets are one of my favorite things.
    Kari Grace Wagner recently posted…Some of our Favorite Members Aren’t Family To Begin WithMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      Yeah, that tree spoke to me. I would love it if our country could grow something new and tall and strong out of the broken stump of a place we currently are.

      My dog would be a champion blanket snuggler, if there was a contest for that sort of thing.

  3. Marian says:

    I’ve loved seeing these daily-ish photos, Rita. Back when I had a therapist, he encouraged me to pay attention to the small things—a robin building a nest outside my kitchen window, for example—as a way of giving my brain a rest from my constant rumination. This practice of paying attention is definitely more helpful to me than practicing gratitude is. (I do that regularly too, but sometimes it seems as though the practice of gratitude can end up becoming an exercise in finding silver linings, which isn’t always helpful.)

    • Rita says:

      Oh, I really like this. Paying attention makes so much more sense to me than practicing gratitude; maybe paying attention is a form of gratitude. I agree with your last sentence. Sometimes what passes for gratitude practice feels more like an exercise in denial, which is never helpful. Not in the long run, anyway.

  4. TD says:

    Hi Rita, I have found nature so beautifully intriguing. I take so many photos with my phone of all sorts of nature surprises! I don’t share the photos on any platform. But I go back and look at them and see so much more in the photo than I noticed in the flash of the moment.

    For example, I took photos of these tiny little bright green tree frogs that just started showing up. Then later as I was studying the photo, I could see the tiny frog had golden lips. Really look like metallic gold!

    An odd discovery this week: I snapped a shot of my pier and beam where my on/off lever water switch is because I wanted to know how badly the decay of the pier is really. Later when I went to study it there were two lizards! One lizard heading upwards on one side of the pier and the other lizard heading down on the other side of the pier. I was shocked to see this in the photo as I didn’t notice them when I snapped the photo. Yes, I knew that we have lizards, but why didn’t I notice the lizards when I took the photo.

    I’m glad that you have found a fun interest to share a cool picture of cool things. I don’t utilize the Instagram, so I hope you will share a few of your favorites which have meaning to you and words of what you notice on your blog every now and then.

    And of course, a dog endorphin boost certainly can improve my low moods. When I was a child, my neighbor next door had a girl my age that became a close friend. Your Daisy reminds me of their dog who lived inside the garage inside a small 12” x 12” cabinet fill will silk leg hoses, real silk old fashioned. Woochey Goochey was her name, sweetest, cutest dog I had know in my childhood. (Though I didn’t understand as a child why she had to live in the garage). Our family dog lived in the house… those were the nineteen sixties.

    Sorry that it has taken me so long to write to your post. My ability to focus has been low.

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