My friend Max has tagged me with a Thanksgiving meme. I like Max. Max makes me smile. Max makes me think. So I’m taking up Max’s challenge.
It just so happens that I wrote about twenty “things to be thankful for” for publication in the November issue of a slick local fluff magazine, so I’m well prepared for this. For that article, which focused on things to be thankful for in this part of the Sierra foothills, I mentioned long walks, hot soup, glorious coffee, apple pie and rain on the roof (along with where to walk and what local establishments to visit in order to find the soup, the coffee, and the apple pie).
We’re still waiting for the rain. Today there’s a dense, low, unbroken layer of gravid gray clouds, but there’s no rain forecast. I hope as the clouds move eastward, some lucky folks on the other side of the Sierras might just hear rain drumming on their rooftops before too long. With so much of the nation either facing or enduring serious drought, I’m thankful for rain wherever it falls.
And for today, I’m thankful for the gray. I know that sounds funny to sun-worshippers, but I’m not one of you. It’s sunny and warm (or hot) here almost all year ‘round. When the clouds come in and cut the glare, I’m thankful.
Okay, that’s two thankful things, Max. I’ll just count it as one, though, since the clouds, gray skies and rain are a theme by themselves.
Here’s another thing I’m thankful for: my friend PiB, which is short for Puss in Boots. Twelve years ago he turned up at our little hovel in the oak woodlands just outside Placerville, a skinny, pitiful, mostly feral black-and-white Sylvester kitten with a pink nose, golden eyes and four white feet. I like cats but prefer dogs, so he’d have remained feral if it had been up to me. Mr. Wren, however, was enamored of him and started coaxing him closer with promises of kitten food and gentle strokes. Within a week, PiB had his name and a permanent home. He rewarded us with the peculiar loyalty and affection of the Standoffish Feline Kind for many years, preferring to stay outside and rule his territory as a small, neutered but mighty tom, all scrappy claws and teeth. He always had scabs on his head and frequently brought us freshly-killed birds and lizards, laid with pride on the mat in front of the door. Once he snatched a low-flying little brown bat right out of the air, right before our eyes. We yelled at PiB, he dropped the bat, and it flew away while he licked a paw in nonchalant disgust. Incredible.
And then three years ago, on Christmas Day, he crept inside, subdued and looking unwell. We found a terrible, swollen and leaking abscess on his belly, caused by a puncture wound he’d received while mixing it up with another critter – cat, dog, coyote, raccoon, we never knew. It was dicey for a while, but PiB lived through the injury, saved by about $1000 to the local veterinarian and three weeks worth of daily medication pushed gingerly down his throat and a twice-daily wound-flushing, carried out by yours truly and the Fledgling while holding the furious but resigned PiB, shaved pink belly up, over the kitchen sink.
Amazingly, we lost only a little skin during the ordeal. He seemed to understand that while the flushing was grossly undignified and very painful, it was beneficial. He ‘d hide for hours afterwards, but each time, when he finally stuck his nose out again, we were forgiven. What a cat.
For his own good (and that of my bank account) PiB was forced to become an Indoor Cat after that. The first two years he was constantly trying to sneak out the door whenever it opened, but he’s used to the cushy life now. He rarely makes a break for it. And to my delight, he’s turned into a lap cat and one of the best furry friends I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. He’s always near and he seems to like being held as much as I like holding him. Mr. Wren may be the one who first enticed him to stick around, but it’s me PiB sticks close to now. I'm charmed.
I’m thankful for good health. I always thought that was an “old fart” thing to say, and I guess it is, but I understand and appreciate why they say it now that it’s clear I am not immortal like I thought I was when I was younger. My personal stage of “old fartdom” has arrived. To hold further deterioration at bay, I continue to walk – I’m averaging about 15 miles a week with a goal of more as I build up endurance and speed – and I’ve managed to stay off the cigarettes (seven months!) and stick to a very healthy diet. I feel good. Although I have rheumatoid arthritis, with the exception of an occasional twinge here or there, it remains quiet and doesn’t trouble me. And I think the exercise, the healing lungs and the good food have combined to make the symptoms of menopause, which I’ve been struggling to deal with without resorting to medication, much less annoying.
Two more. I’m thankful for family – Mr. Wren, my daughter and her boyfriend, my mother and sister, my aunt, her son and his wife, their new baby, and my other cousins and half-cousins, with whom I reunited recently over the passing of another aunt and uncle. We’re both a smaller family than we were a couple of years ago and a larger one in new ways. We’re stronger, sadder, maybe a little wiser, flung out further away in distance but not in spirit. It’s been a revelation, rediscovering the tough but gossamer threads that link us.
Finally, I’m thankful for the comforts of home – and for all these other things: For the roof over my head, for plenty to eat, for the soft bed in which I sleep, and for the time I’ve been given for contemplation and decision-making. I’m thankful for time to write, for time to sweep the walks, and for the gentle life I lead, knowing that it could all change tomorrow. I’m thankful that I’m aware and mindful, at least as much as I’m able to be, and most of all, I’m thankful to be alive, right here and right now.