Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thank You

Sun in Pisces and Gemini Ascendent, I have all of the signs in the Zodiac that look in two directions. As a result, I can often see both sides of any argument. It makes me a good lawyer, but, on occasion, an annoying friend and, to tell the truth, at times I can even frustrate myself: "Yes!" cannot be the answer to EVERY either/or question. Which is a long (two-sided) wind-up for saying that I can see both sides of the whole "gratitude" thing.

On the one hand (we Pisces haven't hands, but we Geminis have four!), I can agree with Barbara Ehrenreich that this whole "Bright Siding Thing" has gone way too far. Too many of us get talked into doing crazy shit in the name of being "positive," and the whole "be grateful" thing can cover an awful lot of privilege when it's directed at victims of abuse, people whose jobs got shipped off to someplace where there's available slave labor, or women with cancers growing in their breasts because it is profitable for multi-national companies to pollute our air, water, and food chain (Carolyn Myss has a standing invitation to bite me). My Ascendant Gemini comes with a rather well-developed capacity for cynicism and snark and there's a reason that my first poetry love was (and is) Dorothy Parker. As Derrick Jensen has said, there's actually something quite liberating about realizing that we're completely screwed; I've drawn energy from that wave for almost my life's entire dance. (Parker: "Drink and dance and laugh and lie. Love the reeling midnight through. For tomorrow we shall die. But, alas, we never do.")

On the other hand, I've found the spiritual practice of intelligent gratitude to be very rewarding. I work pretty hard at never having a drink of water and never eating a bite of food for which I don't stop and thank Earth, the people who worked to bring those gifts to me, and myself for the work I've done to ensure that I have what I need. I sit zazen almost every single day in my garden or my ritual room and send gratitude out to the Universe for my healthy, happy family, for a job that I love, for my circle of women, for the roof over my head, and for the absolute lagniappe (years after the breast cancer and the broken ankle that, even mere decades ago, would have killed me) of the moment when G/Son points to my computer and says, "Nonna, that word is 'fox,'" or says, "Nonna, I think your cold is better; I don't hear you coughing as much." When I was in my 20s and going through a very rough patch (personally, professionally, physically, and spiritually), I somehow, long before I'd read anything about practicing gratitude, began the practice of forcing myself to write down three good things that had happened every day. When I go back now and read that datebook, some of the things I had to count to get to three seem pretty strained (it was a tough time), but the practice was transformational for me. It forced me to focus on what I wanted more of and to stop only thinking about the things (almost everything, at that point) in my life that hurt. Whenever Son, growing up a Scorpio through and through, was mad at the world, I would say to him, "OK, that's all true. But tell me three good things that happened today." (Sometimes, I think he thought the best thing that could possibly happen in the whole world would be to have a mom who didn't ask idiotic questions. But he never got to be grateful for that.)

And, so. We have a secular holiday devoted to being grateful. We Americans should be not only grateful but also ashamed and afraid for the fact that we consume far more of the planet's resources than we ought. And we owe a debt of gratitude to so many.
Plants and Animals in the Garden,
We welcome you -- we invite you in -- we ask your forgiveness and
your understanding. Listen as we invokve your names, as we
also listen for you.
Little sparrows, quail, robins, and house finches who have died in our strawberry nets;
Young Cooper's Hawk who flew into our sweet pea trellis and broke your neck;
Numerous orange-bellied newts who died by our shears, in our irrigation pipes, by our cars, by our feet,
Slugs and snails whom we have pursued for years, feeding you to the ducks, crushing you, trapping you, picking you off and tossing you over our fences;
Gophers and moles, trapped and scorned by us, and also watched with love, admirations, and awe for your one-mindedness;
Sowbugs, spitbugs, earwigs, flea beetles, wooly aphids, rose-suckers, cutworms, millipedes and other insects whom we have lured and stopped;
Snakes and moths who have been caught in our water system and killed by our mowers;
Families of mice who have died in irrigation pipes, by electricity in our pump box, and by predators while nesting in our greenhouses;
Manure worms and earthworms, severed by spades, and numerous microscopic lifeforms in our compost system who have been burned by sunlight;
Feral cats and raccoons whom we've steadily chased from the garden;
Rats whom we've poisoned and trapped and drowned.
Deer chased at dawn and at midnight, routed by dogs, by farmers, by fences and numerous barriers;
Plants: colored lettuces, young broccoli, ripe strawberry and sweet apples, all of you who have lured the animals to your sides, and all plants we have shunned: poison hemlock, pigweed, bindweed, stinging nettle, bull thistle;
We call all plants we have removed by dividing you
and separating you, and deciding you no longer grow well here;
We invoke you and thank you and continue to learn from you. We will continue to practice with you and for you.

~by Wendy Johnson, Green Gulch Farm, in Earth Prayers from Around the World: 365 Prayers, Poems, and Invocations for Honoring the Earth, ed. by Eliz. Robers & Elias Amidon.

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