What a year!
That’s the only way I can sum up 2017 thus far. It’s been a time of great disappointment and fear for many of us, as we daily watch our society decay under a landslide of lies, greed and hate. But for me personally it has also been a very exciting - and exhausting - time. Jim Ginn and I are well on our way to completing a small vacation home in Methow Valley, and yes, we are doing virtually all the work ourselves. It’s been the kind of year that challenges me as we enter the holiday season. In times like these, can we really be thankful, and share joy and good cheer?
The photo above was taken from our lot in the Methow in July of this year. It is my favorite of many sunset images I captured over the summer. Sunsets have been a special gift for me there. I recall wonderful sunsets when I was a child, and seeing them again has been a special surprise. I posted this photo on Facebook, garnering lots of oohs and ahhs. One friend commented, “Was some of that the result of BC fires?”
I was a bit taken aback by the comment. For a moment I felt guilty for finding such pleasure in the product of pollution. And BC was hardly the only fire news this year. A wildfire burned within 20 miles of our Methow home almost all summer, and we spent quite a few days breathing a mixture of soot, ash and air. Not to mention the devastation in California this fall. And elsewhere in this issue you can see evidence of another kind of devastation – hurricanes. With all that, how can I dare to consider this photo beautiful?
But I do. I remain deeply grateful that I got to see that sunset, and capture it on camera. It’s become a symbol of sorts for me, a reminder that beauty and pain are often partners, that suffering and joy mix readily in this crazy world of ours. Seeing it, I am committed to give thanks anyway.
When I mentioned writing this article to Pastor Tim, he referred me to a small book titled Gratitude. It was written by Oliver Sacks, a neurologist and prolific author, and includes four essays that were written in his early 80s, beginning soon after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The final essay was first published two weeks after his death. In the book, Dr. Sacks writes:
I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written… Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.
So what a year, indeed! On the political front I hope things get better soon. I’m relieved to hear of friends who are cleaning up and moving on after fires. So much work remains to be done in the aftermath of this year’s hurricanes. With all that, I remain grateful, and each day I become more in awe of one of the greatest gifts that we humans ever receive: the ability to feel gratitude.
Note: originally published in the November 2017 edition of The Spire