This morning, I took a walk outside, and the horizon was so clear, mountains half brushed with snow, it was hard not to feel thankful. Hearing the quiet that radiates across mesas from the foot of the Lone Cone to the batwings of the La Sals, I thought there must be someone I could express gratitude to — a simple prayer?
A friend died recently, and not long before that another, and another before that. I’ve heard the longer you live, the more you see pass by. Walking on this fine morning, I felt more appreciative than usual for the crunch of my step, the way soil and small rocks part and make a sound you wish you could hear forever. I don’t know what the dead are or aren’t hearing, but I felt sad it wasn’t this.
Thinking of my friend, I noted how the days are no longer as hot as summer, and not yet as cold as winter. It’s the Goldilocks time of year, left side of my face warm in the morning sun, right side brisk in shade. This only happens for a handful of weeks, like a last breath before we dive into December.
Thank you, autumn, for happening. Your colors and bluebird days are treasured. This is the best kind of prayer, I think. No sins or reprisals, no begging for more of this or that. It’s a simple appreciation, as if that’s all this wide sky ever asked for.
Thank you, tumbleweeds, we fought back last summer for finally dying off, and thanks to crisp heads of sunflowers for having seeded next year’s yellows.
Listing appreciations starts to feel like writing acknowledgements for a book. Thank you to the ravens who sometimes call out when I leave the house. I wouldn’t have looked up without you. To the dried, brown flower stalks, I appreciate the dose of mortality you offer, reminder that seasons keep turning.
I don’t know if I’m thanking God or I’m thanking this specific, twisted juniper in front of me, its wood like braided muscle, which, if I have the teachings right, is God, too. Whomever or whatever you give thanks to — if only the air, give it.
Thank you to the pathway leading back home, and to my wife on the phone trying to talk to a friend, but cell service keeps cutting out. I’m thankful for her little dance around the house, looking for a spot of signal, how we pass each other as if on a ballroom floor, but it’s only the mudroom.
Sitting at my desk, looking through books and piles of paper, I took special note of morning light, now higher in the sky. It came through the window onto the honey-colored needles of a cactus in a pot, which, now that we’re naming all the privileges of the day, I felt especially grateful for.
At this moment, I wished you could be sitting next to me on the wooden bench. You might be scribbling in a notebook, or drawing some crazy sketch, while I’m typing on my keyboard, both of us in the same warm slants of sunlight. The sun feels good. You might point out the cactus, the way it glows like it’s on fire, and we’d both be thankful for being alive.
Craig Childs is a Norwood author who has published more than a dozen books on nature, science and exploration, including “The Secret Knowledge of Water.”