Gratitude and Grace

I try to avoid being a stereotype. But that’s impossible when you’re a vegan, tree hugging, dog-loving, tofu thumping activist who grows her own food and sleeps in tie-dye. I’ve recently rediscovered a company called Nomadic State of Mind, which produces awesome, fair-trade hemp (i.e., hippie) products made from reclaimed materials.

Years ago, I bought a pair of hemp sandals from NSM that has been lovingly worn down to a few threads of hemp hanging together on a prayer. So, I’ve ordered another pair. Here’s to the next 10 years of walking on hemp. Check them out: you’ll love their products and their cosmology.

The gardens this morning were filled with gnats. It’s been either raining or oppressively humid for weeks, and this creates beautiful breeding grounds for the little buggers. So, this morning’s walk through the gardens was cancelled due to gnats in my mouth and eyes. I try not to dislike gnats, but they don’t respect boundaries. I’ve no problem with them making our gardens their home, but I draw the line at gnats in my eyeballs.

My husband and I took the boat out Sunday, and had a beautiful day. We both love the town of Mystic for its charm, seafaring culture, people, and proximity to the ocean (and the Tibetan supplies shop at Mystic Village). We boated around and chatted with other boaters (boaters are a kind and friendly lot), waved at kayakers, laughed at the boat dogs, and soaked up the great vibes.

Then we lunched in nearby Stonington at our new favorite spot, Breakwater. We love this waterside eatery for lots of reasons; great food, amazing strawberry and raspberry margaritas, the total beach culture, the music, and the fact that they have slips right outside where you can dock your boat, and go in and dine.

Neither my husband nor I come from privileged backgrounds. We were both born working class, and have struggled to make ends meet all our lives. We started working as children (me at 12, him at 14), and have always been self-supporting. There are no trust funds or inheritances in our personal stories.

Being so self-reliant may not seem like a blessing, but it is. You really and deeply appreciate every little good thing that comes along. As we were coasting along the Mystic River with other boaters, taking it slow and soaking up the sun, sipping fresh watermelon and lime juice and getting tan, with the beautiful shoreline and sights and smells of summer around us, we both expressed overwhelming gratitude that our lives have brought us to this place.

We often just kissed and said how much we love our boat and each other. In contrast to our lives of hard work and constraints, here we were, together, living a dream at last. There was never a moment of expectation about what life is supposed to be serving up for us. We knew we were blessed, not entitled.

The feeling fed our spirits all day. I wonder if folks who are born into privilege have the chance to feel so rapturous about a summer day on their boats. I don’t think so.

Gratitude feels great. Which is one reason why I cultivate it each day. A yummy meal? Grateful. Another day without serious physical pain or disease? Grateful. A beautiful husband to share the days with? Grateful. A beautiful, loving dog to snuggle and kiss? Grateful. Time to meditate and pray in peace and quiet? Grateful. A clean kitchen? Grateful. A chance to give someone else a hand? Grateful.

Strengthening gratitude has done more for my practice than anything else. My mom has said that I’m too young to be so happy just to wake up in the morning. But I don’t think it’s is a function of age. I believe it comes when I realize and understand that life is not supposed to serve up anything to me. Nothing at all. Life is the work of learning, and the work is hard. Everything that we encounter that’s real and fun and beautiful is a blessing that we do happy somersaults about.

Over lunch, with Bob Marley’s ‘Buffalo Solider’ in the background, people chatting and laughing around us, the ocean right at our feet, sun on our faces, and strawberry drinks in hand, I looked at my husband and said, “I love our boat”. He looked back at me and said, “I love you”. I told him, from the bottom of my heart, that I love him too, and then turned my attention to my simple, beautiful lunch of hummus, basil pesto, olive salad, and crusty bread, and started to eat. It was good. Let me tell you, it was all good.

Much love,
Barbie xo

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