Gratitude and Observation

I began my second grad course last week, and one of my assignments for this week was a creative thinking-type one.  I think it could be useful if you're stuck without a topic for a blog, a journal, a column or even a conversation.  In particular, the virtues of gratitude and careful observation are not naturally cultivated by teenagers, so it can be instrumental in helping them re-center and see the bigger picture of our existence.

Here's mine, below.  Feel free to share your own!

I noticed . . .

In the inauguration concert on Sunday, a choir performed that was made up of a very diverse group: all different races, genders and sizes.  It was neat to see how different they were, but how unified their sound was.

What I noticed was their jackets.  They were all wearing red or blue Polarfleece jackets (it was in the teens on Sunday) but as far as I could tell, there was no “system.”  The colors were somewhat equally represented, but not in any sort of order or category (men wearing blue, for instance) and my obsessive mind started wondering how they had decided what color they would wear.  Did it have to do with their political affiliations – red for Republican, blue for Democrat? Doubtful that that many Republicans would sing at the inauguration for such a liberal President.  Was it alphabetical?  Did they just pick their favorite?

It bothered me until they left the stage.  At the very least, I think they should have organized themselves symmetrically.  It was hard to concentrate on their faces and their lovely melodies when all I could see were those stupid jackets!

Kitty on Couch

I questioned . . .

Earlier this week, I had been grading papers on my living room couch, and I got up, leaving half of the couch empty.  On the other half were my school bag, several notebooks, and a stack of papers.

I came back about an hour later and my cat was curled up exactly on top of the stack of papers.  The empty, soft cushion apparently wasn’t as appealing as a pile of midterm exams.

Why do cats do this?  I understand wanting to be near me, or laying on top of something I’m working on – that’s a direct plea for attention. And if the surface is hard or cold, I understand choosing an article of clothing or a piece of paper over the table or floor.  But a stack of papers about three inches high is full of bristly edges and nubbly staples.  How could that possibly be comfortable?

After laughing about it, I sent the photo to a couple of friends.  My friend in Moscow e-mailed a photo of her cat curled up in her violin case.  My sister in Chicago sent photos of her cats in the bathtub and the sink (both dry, of course.)  This appears to be a worldwide phenomenon!

I'm grateful for . . .

Food.  I know it’s a cliché, but there are so many people who don’t have anything to eat.  I have always had more than enough.  Beyond that, there are plenty of people who don’t have much choice about what to eat; they get whatever they can grow in their own backyards, or what’s dropped from the sky in a relief bundle, or what the nursing home is serving for dinner.  I have almost limitless choices: I can grow my own food if I want (gardening is a lark, a hobby) but I can also drive to any one of a number of specialty markets and stores, or go to a restaurant and have someone make dinner for me, or call and have it delivered to my house.  Finally, I can always go to my parents’ or my husband’s parents’ house, where one of our moms will offer me something to eat.  Barring a disaster of unprecedented proportions, I will never go hungry.  In the light of the ages of humanity, that’s a pretty substantial gift.