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Tag: litany of blessings

praise upon praise: the high art of thank-you

thanksgiving sky

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. Version 2

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…

a centenary of thank you…

november sky

as i type, a boy i love, one just home from college, is lumpily sleeping on the yonder side of my typing room’s ceiling. that’s a blessing come true, a thank you of the very first order. while he warms the sheets, i’m down below, pounding away on a litany of 100 thank you’s. enchanted by celtic and jewish and ignatian understanding that we are called to anoint the holy hours of our every day with blessing — 100 blessings precisely, in the case of the jews — i decided to unspool my own centenary of thanks across the arc of a day.

this counting of blessings was sparked because i was asked to bring a sheaf of prayer to a thanksgiving vigil, and this seemed an apt response. in this season of bountiful thanks, as we gather roots from the ground, and fowl from the field, i march through time, sewing blessing into the whole cloth of my day. (it’s a might bit long, so you might want to take this in doses, a swallow here, another there. forgive me for counting clear to 100…)

a centenary of blessing, of deep and undying Thank You…

In the liminal landscape between asleep and awake, thank you, Holy One, for heart still beating, for breath, for first thought, the one that tickles us into consciousness. Thank you for darkness before dawn, morning after morning a reawakening to the metaphor, the truth, that in our darkest hour we might hold on just one more minute, for surely the stars will dim, and horizon’s edge will be doused in tourmaline and tangerine, and finally radiant gold. (4)

Thank you, by the way, for celestial paint set.

Thank you for bed, and blanket. Thank you for the one I love who lies beside me, whose breathing I know by heart. Thank you for the lump that’s warm, that’s there when I reach across sheets in the night, in the morning. Thank you for deepening love and the long winding road that brought him to me, to my heart.

Thank you for the dawn itself, that sacred cloak of in-between, when crescent moon dangles just above, but night gives way to morning’s light, and heaven’s dome, at the seam of earth and sky, soaks up scant threads of all-absorbent amber rose. Thank you for the stillest hour when all that moves is barest breeze that rustles leaves, and far off, the stirrings of the lake that never cease. (13)

Thank you for this old house, with arthritic floor boards, ones that creak at just the same juncture, with just the same footfall. Thank you for kitchen, and heat that is cranked. Thank you for whiny old cat there at the door. Thank you for coffee beans and hissing pot, and the old chipped mug that fits snug in my palms. (20)

Dear Maker of All That’s Blessed, thank you for the sound of those footsteps clomping onto the floorboards above, and the certitude that — so far this day — all is well. Thank you for shower, hot and pulsing and shaking off sleepy-eyed resistance to standing upright.

Thank you for porridge I stir at the cookstove. Thank you for the sustenance I dollop in spoonfuls, the alchemy of cooking for those we fuel for the day. Thank you for faith in the vespers unfurled, in between handfuls of raisins and walnuts and jewel-toned dried fruits, the ones we toss with abandon into the bubbling pot.

Thank you for clementines, and sugary cinnamon. Thank you for butter, slathered and melted. Thank you for school bus drivers who wait. Thank you for the click of the door when at last the morning rush is over, is ended, and no one is reaching for car keys, muttering under her breath.

Thank you, Blanketer of Wonder, for the quiet stitched into the morning’s hours, the quiet so thick I can drink in the tick and the tock of a grandfather’s clock. And the squawk of the bluejay, and the chatter of sparrows. (35)

Thank you for work to be done. Thank you for dishes piled in the sink, whose scrubbing and rinsing gives me a moment to think, to ponder the day. Thank you for typewriter keys who call me, and fingers that play on the alphabet rows. Thank you for sentences that write themselves, and words that are birthed from deep down inside.

Thank you for wisdom, the sort that comes in unexpected flashes, when you only know you’ve found it as you feel your heart go thumpety-thump, and you sit bolt upright, or feel the goosebumps sprout up and down unsuspecting flesh. That wisdom might come reading along the pages of news, or in a poem slipped under your transom, or from a stranger passing by. Plenty often, it comes through the holy gospel of a wonder child, as you catch one last phrase tossed over a shoulder at the schoolhouse door.

Thank you for all that’s poetry — wisdom-steeped or just plain beautiful, breath-taking. And thank you for Gospel of any brand — be it birthed from holy child, everyday saint, or even the so-called kook who stands on the street corner, proclaiming through a megaphone.

Thank you, yes, for telephones, for that rare sound of a voice that nestles against the tenderest heart. That, within the first breath of the very first syllable, brings comfort, collapses miles and aloneness, amplifies the hours absorbed in coming to this holy bond of deep knowing each other, inside and through.

Thank you even for the bits of news — of whatever ilk, good or bad or nasty — that percolate the hours of each day, make one slice of time so vastly different from the next, stitch drama to the script of life, offer us the chance to absorb each and every frame from an angle never before perceived. (45)

Thank you, most of all, for the deep down knowing that you, Holy Depth and Gentleness, never leave me adrift. Never let my quakings take me down. Ever bring me light, and tender touches. Ever hold me up, against the chilling winds. And bring me to communion with all that’s glorious and bountiful in this rugged, rugged landscape.

I might be among the few who salute the cloudy skies of November on my long list of thanks. Ah, but those angora gray skies, they comfort me, harbor me. I’ll take the somnolence, the introspection of a gray day any day. So thank you for cloudy and gray.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how thankful I am for hearts that continue to tick, day in and day out, despite the trials we toss their way, as we worry and fret, then, without notice, shriek in deep joy and excitement. Poor ol’ heart, the one that landed in me anyway, it might not have realized it was signed on for a roller-coaster ride of such seismic proportion.

Speaking of ticking, thank you for the schoolhouse clock that does just that, minute by minute, hour upon hour, heartbeat against the wall.

Thank you, too, for windows. And for the flutterings and flashes just beyond the glass, as clouds of gentle creatures take off and land, from sky to limb and back again — each time, lifting just a little bit of my soul.

Thank you for doors, the ones that let in unexpected someones, someones we love. And keep out the wind and the cold.

Thank you for fires that roar and logs that crackle. Thank you for the one that’s turning the so-called sleeping room, across from the kitchen, into a chamber of flickering gold. Thank you for the two lumps under blankets, snoozing by the fire as I sit here, now typing. (59)

Thank you, Lighter of Night, for the cloak of darkness that comes early now, velvety backdrop for twinkling of stars, and moon that holds me, most every eve, in its trance.

Thank you for dusk, dear Lighter of Light, the far edge of the day, beginning of nightfall, when the last seeds of illumination are scattered, are rosy.

Thank you for dinner hour, and the blessing of slow simmering stew. Thank you for the bounty of greens from your earth, and spices from pods and seeds and stamens.

Thank you, God, for the trees and the gnarly limbs, and the hummingbird now buried deep in my garden.

Thank you for candlelight. And the lights of Your making: moonlight and sunlight and dappled radiance scattered like seed across the landscape. Thank you for twinkling stars and streaking ones, too — chalk marks etched across the slate of the night sky. (76)

Thank you for drifting off to sleep, and dreams that color our imagination. Thank you even for revelations that come to us in the awful interludes of tossing and turning. Thank you for wanting to wake up again, to climb from the bed. Thank you for the blankets we tuck under the chin of our sleeping child.

Thank you, dear God, for the child. For the breathtaking chance to infuse all that’s good in this world. Thank you for lessons taught while holding a hand, or wiping a tear. Thank you for band-aids that quell the hurt, and words that do the same. Thank you for everyone who lifts up our child, the teachers who inspire, the coaches who are kind. And the lady down the block who never fails to plant a fat wet kiss on that child’s pink cheek. (90)

Thank you for the year drawing to a close, and this pause to nod our heads and whisper gratitude. Thank you for the kaleidoscope of turning season, the ever-shifting call to attention. Thank you for crunching leaves, and tumbling snow flake.

Thank you for love in all its iterations. For birth, and death, and all that animates the interstitial hours. Thank you for those who walk beside us, who put a hand to the small of our back, or reach out to carry us across the bottomless abyss. (100)

Thank you, God, for all of this. And more. So, so much more.

in this octave of blessing, i have a most special request: a dear and old friend of mine suffered unthinkable heart-shattering this week. she is a seeker of joy, and she finds it. but this week, she was tested beyond measure. i have faith that she will gather up the shards of joy all around. but i ask you to hold her in your prayers — and, too, her beloved, now gone from this earth.

what do you count in your centenary of thanksgiving?