Monthly Archives: March 2017

Gratitude

(75 minutes)

This morning, I rose before the rest of my family. I love my family dearly, and I love spending time with them, but waking up before the rest of the clan is stirring, always feels like a gift. My family is loud, and so am I. We speak in animated voices, we laugh boisterously, play our instruments vibrantly. I like to think we live loudly. My husband enjoys listening to podcasts on his small stereo while he goes about his daily tasks and cranking up the larger stereo to listen to tunes while he cooks dinner. I am grateful to him for introducing me to so much quality entertainment, humor and various avenues that challenge my brain, but while he finds it relaxing to have these avenues set the background noise for his life, I appreciate the stillness. It soothes me.

While my children sleep contentedly this morning, I boil water for tea, prep a starter mix which I hope to later turn into multi-grain bread, fix the kids some oatmeal with blueberries and put away last night’s dishes. I am a morning person. I wish I could capture the energy I have in the morning and save it in a mason jar to sip after the evening meal. Post-dinner, I’m lucky if I have enough energy to finish the dishes. When my tea is thoroughly steeped, I grab my imposing book of E.B. White’s letters, which I have been avoiding lately, choosing to read children’s novels instead. I take my treasures out to our front porch, along with the comforts of a warm blanket and two graham crackers to dunk in my tea.

Sitting on our front porch on a sunny March morning feels like a gift too. It is the perfect temperature with the blanket, and allowing myself to read the musings of White about his own family, feels good. He writes of a quirky older brother-in-law whom his father despised because while the kids adored him and his antics, he could not support his family. How could you not love a man though, who embraced every holiday with gusto, setting off firecrackers and staging elaborate settings for Halloween including a stuffed alligator with a glowing red orb in his mouth? I think I could forgive many character flaws for one who so fully embraced fun. We should all be so lucky.

As I read, I let my mind wander a little and daydream about skipping our morning responsibilities. Maybe the kids can miss Sunday school just this once, and I can extend this delicious morning. I return to my book, though, knowing time is ticking, and I will not let them skip. After I finish my tea, I put down my book and pick up my guitar. I realize that this week, I have practiced three or four times, which is actually pretty good for me. Thanks to my new teacher, my ten-year-old daughter, I have learned two new songs. I practice my new songs and am relieved that they don’t sound so bad. Hopefully, my young teacher will concur when I play for her later. After I have gone through the new songs a few times, I transition to an old favorite. I like to play, Sarah Watkins’ “Take up Your Spade” on Sunday mornings. It’s a simple song, and I’ve included the lyrics below.

Take up Your Spade by Sarah Watkins

The sun is up, a new day is before you

The sun is up, wake your sleepy soul

The sun is up, hold on to what is yours

Take up your spade and break ground

 

Shake off your shoes,

Leave yesterday behind you

Shake off your shoes,

But forget not where you’ve been

Shake off your shoes,

Forgive and be forgiven

Take up your spade and break ground

Give thanks, for all that you’ve been given

Give thanks, for who you can become

Give thanks, for each moment and every crumb

Take up your spade and break ground

Break ground, break ground, break ground

The song grounds me and reminds me that there is work to be done. Yet, instead of feeling anxious or overwhelmed by the work at hand, I am comforted by the idea that all I need to be willing to do is pick up my spade and start digging. And how to do this work? With a thankful and a humble heart. Ten minutes of singing this song sometimes feels more meaningful to me than an hour and a half spent at Mass. I recently finished reading Grace Lin’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, yet another children’s novel that I prioritized reading over White’s letters, and in it, the father tells a story of a single sheet of paper with the secret of happiness written on it. The King desires to obtain this paper  and sends all of his men in search of it, but the wind is strong, and the paper blows away before the men can read it. It blows past a young child, who is able to see the characters inscribed on the paper, but being so young, the child cannot read, and so the wisdom of the paper is lost. Eventually, when the paper is discovered, there is only one word on it. Thankfulness.

How will I approach the work that lies before me today? The household tasks that seem like a mountain I will never see over. The myriad of teaching tasks that I try and juggle skillfully, but often feel like an amateur picking one ball off the ground after another. How will I approach the work at hand? With gratitude.

Today, it is easy to have a grateful heart. I woke up into the sacred, silent hour I cherish before those I love rose to meet their day. I read and played music, and I reminded myself what a gift it is that I can play guitar, and that playing alone in the office Dan and I share, is enough for me, that unlike my writing, where my ambitions seem to exceed my talent and effort, here I am content to learn from my child, to play the chords taught to me, to sing in the quiet as the world stirs around me and becomes loud.

The challenge is taking up the spade with gratitude on the mornings where there is barely room for a cup of tea let alone singing and reading. The mornings when I rise to noise and can’t seem to find any quiet within. My hope is that these mornings will strengthen me, so that in the mornings to come, when the demands of the day are even greater, and frustration seems to outweigh gratitude, I can close  my eyes and still find the melody.

 

“Take up Your Spade” by Sarah Watkins on youtube