Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is the most important holiday of the year to me these days.  It’s a holiday that isn’t overloaded with expectations, can be celebrated with little effort (for those of us who don’t cook), and usually offers the opportunity to reflect on all that is good in life.

It’s the last part that makes this a special holiday.  It’s always easy to find something to complain about.  Yet complaining rarely makes me happy.  On the other hand, remembering what I have to be grateful for fills me with the sort of joy that both reminds me how good my life is and makes me sad that not everyone can find a long list of things to give thanks for.

In giving a little more thought since yesterday’s post to my gratitude list for Thanksgiving this year, here is what I came up with on my second attempt.  I am grateful for:

  1. Friends and family who accept and love me with all of my shortcomings, laugh with me when I laugh, laugh at me when I deserve to be laughed at, and remind me that the greatest joys in life often come in the smallest gestures when they’re least expected.
  2. A world so full of wonder that I could live a thousand lives and still not come close to exhausting the potential to be awed and amazed.
  3. The extraordinary number of people in the world who believe that kindness is more important than being right, justified, recognized, or fair.  Examples:  A friend of mine picks up other people’s dogs’ poop in the park.  A neighbor walked across the street with a trash bag one day and start picking up the trash left behind after a marathon.  A woman across the street stood on the corner asking passers-by if anyone recognized a puppy who had been hit and killed, wanting to inform the owners.  Every day there are people taking care of others in ways that often go unnoticed.  I am grateful to be surrounded by inspiring people.
  4. The abundance of food that makes it possible for me to have to watch my weight.  I am sometimes ashamed that not everyone in the world has the same access to basic resources like food.  But for today, Thanksgiving Day, when we Americans traditionally feast until we burst, I set aside my guilt and simply feel incredibly grateful to have had the fortune of being born in a part of the world where food is plentiful and affordable.
  5. Finally, technology.  It gives me the opportunity to experiment with forms of personal expression like blogging and digital photography, the ability to make a living, and access to information from anywhere I have a cell signal.  More importantly, technology connects me to people all over the world I would have never known about otherwise.

All-in-all, I am grateful I have the opportunity to live my life, to find my own path.  I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.

Re-Hike

Sunday has become unofficial hiking day.  Of late, I seem to have fallen into a new routine.  Saturday, I recover from the previous 5 days of hiking, biking, rowing, and yoga.  I do this mostly by laying on the couch with the occasional interruption of taking Tisen for walks.

But Sunday, Sunday I hike.  And this past Sunday, Pat needed to work, so it was the perfect opportunity to make my second attempt at Edward Point.  This time, Tisen and I would start at 10:30 in the morning instead of 4:30 in the evening.  We were mentally prepared for a rather challenging 6 mile hike, up and down Signal Mountain, scrambling over rocks.

This was our fourth trip to the Signal Point overlook.  It’s an easy walk down a paved trail from the parking lot.  We spent 20 minutes covering the 100 yards from the parking lot to the overlook–there were lots of places to sniff.

But the overlook is it for the suburban park setting.  After stopping for a couple of quick shots, we headed to the Cumberland Trail.  Even with its manmade steps, it’s not an easy trail.  Many people make it the first half mile to a “natural” overlook point over the gully that our trail would wind its way around.  But it involves clamoring down steep and big steps, jumping onto rocks, and stepping carefully.  Tisen did an amazing job navigating all the obstacles.

Every time we go on a hike that starts out with an accessible view, I notice the drop off in population as you get further from the parking lot.  We were still on the most traveled part of the trail, but already we were down to only 2 other people who we didn’t see until we made it to the overlook point.

Before we’d rounded the first blind turn, a Pileated Woodpecker called from so close to where we were standing that I was sure I would look up and see it clinging to a tree.  As I searched for the shape of this giant woodpecker, it called again, sounding slightly further away.  I searched frantically, watching for shadows against the dark forest floor.  When it called a third time, the Doppler effect kicked in–I could hear it moving away from us as it called.  I was bummed.  I haven’t seen a Pileated Woodpecker in quite a while–I would have loved to have gotten a shot of it.

We continued our hike possibly in greater safety now that the woodpecker was gone–I have a tendency to forget I’m walking on the edge of a cliff when I’m searching for a bird.

When we stopped at the first natural overlook, Tisen was already panting hard.  I got out his portable water bowl and tried to coax him into drinking water.  Tisen stuck his elbow in the collapsible water bowl and stared at me, pink tongue lolling from his black-and-white mouth.