~thankful thursday~ everywhere and nowhere


~30 days of gratitude~ day 18

Today I’m feeling grateful for all the little things, the popcorn and cranberries that grow into long garlands of gratitude if you string them one by one.



~30 days of gratitude~ day 19

I am grateful for spontaneous dates to go outside and look at the moon. Rich handed me my jacket a little while ago and took me out on a moon date this evening. This photo is not from tonight, but from a moon date somewhere in New Mexico, waking up in a Rest Area and getting back on the road toward home.



~30 days of gratitude~ day 20

I am grateful for good work bringing good food to good people. I am grateful for Saturday sun. I am grateful for my crew who sees to it that I take my break, eat my thermos full of chili, and hydrate. I am grateful for chocolate poblano peppers burnished past green to purple-brown and all the way to red. I am grateful for the architecture of each savoy cabbage leaf. I am grateful for roots.



~30 days of gratitude~ day 21

I am grateful for a hike with Quinn, for frost pockets and cold creeks, for beaded webs and sunshine on son.



~30 days of gratitude~ day 22

I am not taking this class for a grade so it’s fine if I cheat. November has some easy days of gratitude that I shamelessly capitalize on. November 6th is nachos. The 22nd is not the only day I dedicate to husband gratitude, but it’s a definite one each and every year. Every 22nd of every month is to be celebrated, whether we are celebrating our first date or our wedding day, and all the 22nds in between bear the title “dorkaversary” to keep things light. Today is the penultimate dorkaversary before we celebrate Ten Years Together on December 22nd.

This morning as we were wishing each other a happy dorkaversary, we recalled that ten Novembers ago, we were being helped along in our eventual romance by our yoga teacher, who decided it was high time for a partner yoga series! “Breathe with your partner,” she told us, as we sat back-to-back lengthening our spines and working out how to breathe at all, much less with our partner, oh my. “Now twist to the right and reach your right hand to hold onto your partner’s left thigh.” Do what now?! At this point in the narration Rich freely deviates from what actually happened. “That’s not my thigh you’re grabbing…”

He cannot behave. I will need more time to work on him! So grateful for the time we’ve spent together.



~30 days of gratitude~ day 23

I am grateful for hope, which appears in this moment not as a thing with feathers, but with fur. A sea otter has been visiting our Oregon coast for several days! This is an event that for most people is probably cute and fun, but for me, it is a profound gift in a heavy time of loss.

I got into marine biology to save endangered species I loved. I became better informed about that over time, and I doubt very seriously that what I do is helping at all. What I do feels like a painstaking documentation of extinction. I know an awful lot about the very specific details of endangerment, how whole ecosystems have folded in on themselves, how our coastline here resembles what it was a century ago only on the very surface. I can take credit for saving nothing.

Sea otters were hunted down to about 1% of their historic population size. The last known individual sea otter swimming in Oregon waters was shot off Newport in 1907. Locally extinct ever since (a reintroduction attempt in the 70s did not succeed), they no longer exert control over sea urchins, which overgraze the kelp holding down the base of this ecosystem. Other species help in the role of maintaining kelp forests, though none to the extent that otters once did. Lately I lean over the edge of every far-out tidepool I visit, hoping and wishing to see a sunflower star, an important urchin predator in the absence of otters. But sunflower stars reached critically endangered status in December 2020, failing to make a comeback from the sea star wasting disease epidemic that began in 2013. Locally extinct now in the southern part of its range, sightings in Oregon are now vanishingly rare. I have not been able to find one.

I started writing gratitude posts as a way to pick myself up when the long shadows of the cold dark fall bring on familiar seasonal despair. But these last two years… despair has not been a seasonal condition. I have struggled with even wanting to bring it up this year, but my kid has still not come home to me, and this day, the 23rd, is his day the same way the 22nd is for Rich and I. I’ve been Quinn’s mom for fourteen years and nine months, and to only see him a few times a week on video and every other Sunday for a hike is… well, despair has been a steady state for this mama.

When he was little, Quinn would get into a cardboard box boat and bring a book in with him to read while he paddled, set crab traps, and coiled his ropes. One frequent book was A Lot of Otters. The premise: Mother Moon and her child become separated, her tears fall into the ocean and become stars, the otters play with the stars and draw her attention to the child by concentrating their light, and she and her child are reunited.

And this is why I will never achieve any type of greatness in my field. I cannot separate this entire bundle of emotion and sadness and longing and grief and tenderness and hope from this one tiny furry being. Somehow, now, this otter is carrying on its belly, not just a tasty meal of sea urchin, but a whole load of other baggage I need it to carry for me. It is too much for one otter to fix a whole broken ecosystem, a whole broken society, a teen’s anxiety, a mama’s broken heart.

I got to see the otter for about thirty seconds yesterday. I stood there for a lot longer than thirty seconds. Waiting. Watching. My hands took a while to recover from the cold after I left, but I saw the otter. I am so grateful I got to see the otter.

This morning Rich asked, already knowing the answer, whether I would go back again today to check on the otter. I did not see the otter today. But when I heard a rumor that there was also an orca sighted in the area this morning, I knew I would stand there for a long time again. I did not see the orca either. I hope to see orcas someday. (Yes, I am crossing my fingers the orca did not see the otter…)

Maybe why I like marine mammals is that there is no guarantee of seeing them. Someone said aloud what I always think to myself about that gaze you get into when looking for mammals: that you look everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

It makes me think of one quote Joseph Campbell used about God, “an intelligible sphere whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere.”

The seeking is the thing. The waves are rough and the mammals are hiding, I’m standing there, looking at the whole wide circle of ocean, looking everywhere and nowhere. Looking for hope.



~30 days of gratitude~ day 24

I am grateful for this sound.

1 comment to ~thankful thursday~ everywhere and nowhere

  • camp boss

    I love that sound!! and i love that we are both thankful for that sound!! I am thankful you continue to share your writing with the world and me.!! i will be first in line whenever your book is published!!

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