Gratitude

Now that Thanksgiving has passed, we move to the season of wishes and desires (and hey, I’m not knocking it, knowing your desires and goals is good, too). Yesterday was a whole day devoted to our gratitude, but I like to think that there’s something in every moment that we can give a little thought of thanks for, even if it’s small.

I write this aware that some people live lives of struggle and fear and horror that I can scarcely glimpse — they might know this better than I, really. There is always something. But did you see it?

Did you see the clouds?

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Did you see the rain?

IMG_7546 (2)Did you see the moon?

freshman summer ending 041Did you see the sunsets?

lakeDid you see the trees?

New Orleans 156Did you see the little gestures?

IMG_9693Did you see the small smiles?

_C1_9789Did you see the old friends?

_32I6671 (2)Because they’re there. When I see them, I say a little thanks.

Most of these are pictures from the past few years; I should have some more shiny new ones soon, maybe this weekend.

Thanks for looking!

Dan

Deep Roots

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St. Elizabeth, Mo., is a collection of about 300 people clustered within 1 square mile right in the middle of the state. Most people there don’t know me. They probably know my last name, though.

My grandpa grew up in St. Elizabeth with a dozen siblings, and he still raises beef cattle there with my grandma, who is from an even smaller neighboring town. These days the hills of his land seem covered in rust, with the oaks and sycamores clinging yet to their brown and burnt orange leaves. The white paint on the house he grew up in is peeling terribly. But my grandpa, his mustache, his pipe, his golf cap and his cows are the same. 

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My grandparents connect me to a life I probably wouldn’t understand without them. One recent, cloudless morning, I helped my grandpa grab some feed from the old MFA store, roofed with corrugated tin, supported by beams 2 feet thick and coated in cobwebs and swallow nests. My grandpa’s dad, a dairy farmer, worked there for decades hauling feed. After grabbing the bags, my grandpa — thoughtful, laughing easily, devoted to work to the extreme — chatted with two men about a cow’s split hoof. The cashier took out my grandpa’s tab, his name written neatly at the top, and noted the feed we took. Everyone knows my grandpa. He knows everyone.

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When I go around town with him, riding in the beaten pick-up, helping with feed and seeing the settings of his life, I feel different. I feel like a Holtmeyer, to put it bluntly. I feel like I’m tapping into roots I don’t usually give much thought. It’s a proud, solid feeling. Life there seems smaller, yeah — I’m sure my nostalgia and separation affect my perceptions, and this life has plenty of troubles. But it seems simpler, too, to find contentment in plain hard work and integrity. And I come from a long line of people who did so.

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I’m glad I can see into this world. I’m a lot like my grandpa. Each time I go back I learn a little bit more about why.