Thursday, November 22, 2007


Thanksgiving at the parents' house -- and I know nobody needs to read one more posting about gratitude and how much we're all grateful (mostly for either not having to cook or not having to travel). But you'll just have to indulge me for a few minutes.

I practice Qi Gong, which is one of those annoying martial arts where you don't really get to punch anybody. It's all about health and wellness -- and more or less unblocking the flow of energy in your body. It's a staple in Chinese medicine. It's also hard to practice in Northern California without the wind chimes and patchouli filling the air. I'm resistant to that insta-centered philosophy of life. But I've kept up with Qi Gong because it works for me. It works for me the same way prayer or a good poem or bar fights or random sex works for others. Everybody's got something that gets them unblocked. Everybody's got something that reconnects them to the bigger world.

There's a lot of visualization in Qi Gong -- you're seeing energy flowing into and out of your body as you practice careful motion. You're washing out the blocked qi energy. You're bringing in the good qi energy. You can get a pretty good buzz going if you do this long enough. Still, the teacher always lost me when he'd start in again about feeling gratitude to the earth and the sky. Someone rings a Tibetan health bowl, and I start to giggle.

And then one day I was overwhelmed with gratitude. It just washed over me somehow. And I realized that gratitude IS accepting what's good, and giving back. There's nothing fruity about it. It's just accepting that everything you are is a part of something greater. And you can give back to it. Gratitude is that energy moving back and forth -- with your family, with nature, with your writing, with an airplane full of kids. Gratitude is health. Gratitude is being where you are.

I went for a walk behind my folks' house yesterday. They live in New Jersey. When we first moved here in 1981 it was a very different neighborhood. The first walk I ever took from the new house was silent: there were no birds. The stream behind the house smelled like rubber balls. The pond back in the woods smelled like a garden shed: compost and pesticides. But it was the best place to go for a walk when I was in high school. I went for a lot of walks in high school -- I was that kind of kid.

Now it's a different place entirely. They stopped dumping god knows what in it. There are birds all over the place -- and all kinds of birds. The stream is overgrown with lovely old trees and deer and, apparently, bears have moved in. The path by the stream is now posted NO HUNTING.

That's not the only thing that's changed. Real estate has boomed here -- and there are McMansions shoe-horned into every available half-acre plot. It's a different place. It's a busier, more crowded place. But for some reason, it's a better place. Life keeps moving. Life finds a way. I'm grateful for that.

I'm grateful to all my clients and all my readers -- thank you so much for letting me share in your writing and help us both get things done. Thanks for teaching me that writing is gratitude. Thank you to my students and colleagues for learning from me and for teaching me. Thanks for teaching me that teaching is gratitude. We've all learned a lot this year. And I'm grateful there's always more to learn.

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