What Is Not Broken: Thank You for Everything
Last Friday, I watched as the fox took the fresh egg I had left for her and surreptitiously buried it in the straw mulch of my side-yard meadow. Then she munched on one of the apples I had strewn on the hillside, peed by the remaining portion and left it for later. On Sunday, as I watered the new patch of meadow that is barely sprouting in the orchard, just in time for the coming rain, a hummingbird darted in and out of the sprinklers. These territorial conversations are the living ancient patterns that remind us of the world as it has always been. In these moments my heart is happy. The headlines fade.
I’ve been thinking about the power of gratitude to move forward and backward through time – unconstrained, occasionally stopping linear time altogether. I think of that exasperating, life-affirming, slightly new-age spiritual practice of saying Thank You for everything - positive, negative and in between: Thank You for this dying world. Thank You for my beautiful children. Thank You for the appalling origins of this Thanksgiving holiday. Thank You for the miracle of breath. Thank You for the precious fox. Thank You for all the people that love each other in the midst of so much violence.
Thank you for the period from the 1970’s to the 1990’s, which saw some of the greatest destruction of the Earth’s last wild places: the largest thriving forests that were cut and paved over during that time, the purest waterways that were poisoned; the most vibrant indigenous cultures that were violated. In the words of British nature writer Robert Macfarlane, “It is beyond our capacity to comprehend that the American hardwood forest waited seventy million years for people to come and live in it, though the effort of comprehension is itself worthwhile." (The Wild Places (Landscapes); Penguin Books, 2008)
Those of us alive today can say Thank You for our blissful lack of awareness during some portion of that last fulness of being. Thank You that we didn’t realize that it was as intact as it was or vanishing so precipitously. Thank You that we passed through those years without noticing, until we found ourselves stranded here in the End Times – if not of humanity then surely of Nature’s robust intactness. Thank You that, because we did not realize what was whole, or that the wholeness was fragile, we took it for granted, assumed it would always be so, and did not notice its passing or work hard enough to protect it.
Thank You for the fact that we are here because, at one time, the Earth flourished so fully, setting in motion the relationships and processes that keep everything going even now: the exchange of CO2 and oxygen, photosynthesis, the water cycle, digestion, symbiosis. Thank You that every bite of our Thanksgiving dinner is the residual momentum of some previous intactness that has survived and continues.
What is repeated persists. Gratitude protects. When things are named they come into being. Words matter because they contain entire worlds. Not everything that is broken can be fixed, but with sincere gratitude and deep love, what once was whole can become whole again.