Reflections at Thanksgiving, three years into this brave new world. Here’s what I’m giving thanks for:

  • For my big brother, whose emoji 😱 said it all when I shared my newly improved tattoo with him. It was funny and disarmingly honest as responses go. What’s a little permanent ink in the big scheme of things?
  • My father, brothers, and my history of many family holidays filled with food and cheer and all the family values so deeply ingrained in me.
  • For generous friends like Rich and Randy who always make time for me when they come out to the left coast. Last Tuesday, they dropped in between my classes and we had a very civilized lunch at my dining room table before I jumped back onto the computer for my last pre-thanksgiving class.
  • For my most trustworthy council of college pals with whom I have met for 1-2 hours on WhatsApp every Sunday since last summer. In the course of over a year of deep dive conversations Bob and Susan and I have supported each other as we’ve (the royal we) transitioned jobs, planned and remodeled our homes, debated the merits of dating, pet ownership, exercise and sloth. We’ve rid our homes of two pianos, mountains of unnecessary stuff, feeling lighter and more carefree than we have in five years. Sundays can’t get here fast enough for me.
  • For the love of my family and our good fortune over this two year pandemic disruption. I am taking distant joy from the fact that my Dad and his wife spent the holiday together with his sister and her family, who motored up from Florida in an oversized van to share many meals and moments of reminiscing about youth and long fulfilling lives.
On the East Coast, a simultaneous celebration of Thanks
  • For my son and his beautiful family, with whom I spent the holiday in a beautiful resort. It’s been way too long since we saw each other. Since we saw them, they’ve survived the northern California fires and my granddaughter has taken up ice hockey and is soon to turn 6. Together we celebrated the finer points of raptors, buffets, dancing in bars and just relaxing. It was bliss.
  • Fun Raptor facts – courtesy of visiting volunteers from Liberty Wildlife
    • Vultures like the one above (first frame) have no feathers on the tops of their heads so that they can fully get their heads the carrion to feed. If someone (coyote, say) comes up behind them and interrupts their feeding, they can conveniently projectile vomit onto the offender, tricking them into believing that they would taste like what they are feeding on. Handy trick, eh?
    • Peregrine Falcons, once on the endangered species list, can fly up to 220 mph.

Additional gratitudes:

  • Miss S for her lovely ability to show her loving enthusiasm every time we see each other for the first time in a long time. Her big booming “NANA!” and 120-watt smile as she flung open the hotel room door or booming across the hotel lobby. Sweet anticipation of having that same bond with her little sister, Miss B.
  • My long and lasting marriage with Jimmie positioned me for the next phase of my life with high expectations of how to be treated and how to give 100% to someone.
  • My sobriety. I’m thankful for that every day.
  • My so many generous colleagues at work with whom we make change and strive for excellence and rigor in our teaching and professional work.

Life is pretty darn good. After five days off, I’m feeling a perspective on things that is both refreshing and stabilizing.

Though I see the grief well up on holidays, self-doubt forming like the mold on the too-long neglected sweet potatoes in my refrigerator, I need to not let that tell the story of the future. I need to know that though I am occasionally and temporarily sad, it is not an indicator of the path ahead. Those blighted lost opportunities I toss in the bin, chopping and seasoning the remaining bits, roasting them to provide sustenance in the coming weeks.

To better tell the story of the abundance ahead, I recently enhanced the flower on my hummingbird tattoo. The flower is now lush and receptive, much larger than the cherry blossom was. The bird, once demure and distant, now sucks greedily at the blossom, beating her gossamer wings with delicacy and resilience.

At the resort, I sat on the balcony outside my room and watched the wind sweep through the palm trees just above the railings, the soothing sway and rustle a positive intelligence mindfulness rep. The slowest version of Fire and Rain I’ve ever heard wafted up from the open doors below, followed by boozy appreciation, whoops and slower still hand claps.

As I typed in my Thanksgiving finery while I waited for our dinner reservation, I felt that inevitable sadness and holiday loneliness begin to tug in my chest.

The lone chirps of a western desert songbird pierced through the guitar licks. Companionable chatter lifted up to my sliding doors on the porch. I pushed the sadness aside, resolved to just be present for anything that the next days brought. I breathed, imagined my family members preparing for our dinner, donning their festive clothes. Having completed those thoughts, the next two days delivered, bringing good food, fellowship, exploration of new vistas, walks with new friends, celebrating the future of the next generation. I sucked at the full blossom greedily and encourage you to do so, too.

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