praise upon praise: the high art of thank-you
albert einstein said, “there are two ways to live your life. one is as though nothing is a miracle. the other is as though everything is a miracle.”
i’m hitching my existence to the genius’ latter proposition: “as though everything is a miracle.” and so, in the short shadow of the national pause for thanks-giving, i am dipping into praise, a whole litany of pausing to notice, to pay attention, to whisper emphatic hallelujah for the humblest and the grandest of everyday wonders.
praise prayer is said to be the highest form of prayer; it asks for nothing. it is shouting-from-the-mountain-top prayer, or under-full-blast-of-shower prayer.
praise poem, my encyclopedia tells me, is an important part of political and literary tradition in africa; a laudatory poem, especially of the oratory tradition of africa, extolling virtues in a snowball of salutation.
i am etching my own bumpy trail up the mountainside here, and perhaps you’ll want to play along, etch your own tumbling forth of praise, a kaleidoscope of thank-you for the quotidian and the breath-taking.
and so we begin…
praise for our own little ZIP code and this arthritic old house with its moans and its groans, all of which gave us a place to tuck ourselves for this annual pause for bowing heads and bulging bellies. and offered refuge from the throngs at the airport, and the thunderclouds high in the sky that surely would have diverted the flight — as has happened holidays past when suddenly you find yourself at the very wrong airport.
praise for Find My Friends, the app that shows me my boys’ dots on the map, somehow reassuring in a pictorial way. and on thanksgiving allowed me to follow my firstborn’s dot down the connecticut shoreline to new york city, so fine a tracing i could see that it stopped at 125th street in harlem, and slowly made its way to the grid at 94th and lexington, the closest i came to sharing the day with my boy.
praise for my sister-in-law who fed my firstborn, and ushered him into her holiday house. praise for the leftover bounty she packed into tupperware before she dispatched him into the deep dark of manhattan, retracing his way to the last train of the night, and back to the books that kept him so far from his place at our dining room table.
praise for the persnickety oven that did not decide to up and quit midway through the roasting of the eight-pound turkey breast.
praise for the farmer who grew my brussels sprouts, the earth that spawned my shitake mushrooms, and the orchard that erupted in the crop of sweet and juicy honeycrisp.
praise for my sweet husband who devoted his thanksgiving to writing an obituary —the newspaper’s salutary trumpet blast — for the mastermind who executed the construction of Millennium Park, and a whole string of city jewel boxes.
praise for the magnetism of familial ties, the ones that drew friends from all over the globe this weekend to our tiny dot on the map: london, miami, cambridge, LA, palo alto, and filled our days with serendipitous droppings-in.
praise for the story corps questions with which i peppered my mama, some of which unearthed stories i’d never heard before, all of which are now duly recorded in her 87-year-old voice on the rickety recorder.
praise for the waltz lesson between grandma and grandson, the one that whirled through my kitchen once the dishes were cleared. praise for the boy who lavishes love like nobody’s business.
praise for my down-the-alley neighbor whose heart is beyond measure, and who adorns our doorknob more mornings than we can count with her bountiful soups and stews and cakes and gooey bars. praise for sturdy doorknobs whose hardware does not bend.
praise for the neonatal intensive care unit that is keeping my beautiful friend’s newborn baby girl inching toward 100-percent wholeness and wellness, after her slightly bumpy start. praise for the new mama’s resilience, and the blanket of peace that holds her tight in her wobbliest hours.
praise for the unending goodness and kindness of all the ones who tip the balance of the world in the favor of radiance, eclipsing the darkness that some can’t keep from scuttling in.
praise for the cascade of angels who embroider my everyday with such gentle, tender devotions: be it the ping of a text out of the blue, or a floppy-bowed box that comes in the mail. praise for the beauties that will not cease.
praise for poets and authors whose sentences we inhale, who take our breath away, and teach us how it might be done.
praise for star anise, perhaps the finest spice on my shelf. certainly the prettiest, and the one — along with bay leaf, clove, cinnamon stick, and clementine peel — i can’t keep from simmering on the cookstove.
praise for star-stitched nights, and tourmaline at dawn’s first light. praise for wishes cast upon those stars, and prayers launched with each and every beginning of the day.
praise for the pile of shoes mounded by the door, when the basement filled with teens who cranked the bass, rearranged the bean bags, and settled in for a night of ping pong and unadorned cans of soda.
praise for the thespians of my backyard feeder: crimson-robed papa cardinal, squawky jay, and flock of drab-robed sparrow, hatch and chickadee-dee-dee.
praise for coffee beans and coffeemaker, now hissing its morning song, telling me it’s almost time for the first sacramental sip, the one that supercharges each and every deep dark edge of night before the dawn.
praise for pre-dawn, when all the world is still, and i can unfurl my morning prayer endlessly, scrounging through all the nooks and crannies of my soul, pulling up petitions grand and not so grand and eensy-weensy infinitesimal.
praise for every single occasion for laugh-out-loud guffaws, and those moments when we laugh so hard we can’t catch breath and tears roll down our cheeks: those are the moments that hoist the soul and keep us from the dregs of despair.
praise for this poem that came my way the other day, and inspired me to rattle off my own fat list of praise….
Praise What Comes
surprising as unplanned kisses, all you haven’t deserved
of days and solitude, your body’s immoderate good health
that lets you work in many kinds of weather. Praise
talk with just about anyone. And quiet intervals, books
that are your food and your hunger; nightfall and walks
before sleep. Praising these for practice, perhaps
you will come at last to praise grief and the wrongs
you never intended. At the end there may be no answers
and only a few very simple questions: did I love,
finish my task in the world? Learn at least one
of the many names of God? At the intersections,
the boundaries where one life began and another
ended, the jumping-off places between fear and
possibility, at the ragged edges of pain,
did I catch the smallest glimpse of the holy?
~ Jeanne Lohmann ~
(The Light of Invisible Bodies)
of course the question is this: for what do you praise? please play along…