Tag Archives: gratitude practice

Gratitude and Liminality

We awake at 230 am, Antigua local time, to brew a quick cup of coffee, double check that we’ve packed every last little thing we brought with us and picked up along the way.  It is dark, quiet and cool.  Hugo, one of our beloved innkeepers, sees us off with hugs and sleepy eyes and makes sure our driver arrives.  Which he does, only a few minutes late due to road closures set up for the weekend’s Procesións.

Careening through the wee hours and the volcanic hill sides to arrive in Guatemala City where lights, sounds, people and the airport are to be found, we begin our trek back into modernity one small step at a time.

The day awakens with a pink dawning. I part ways with my friends, knowing we will be drawing and painting and laughing together in just a few week’s time for a smaller workshop out in the San Jose area.  And so there are no tears, which is a relief.  I am sad to be leaving this 3rd world, but I look forward to my home comforts and creatures.

Airport life is strange and timeless, full of noise and people rushing about, and lots of concrete and hard surfaces. I do not care for it.  I am fortunate on both ends of this trip to have familiar faces to greet me along the way.  This sweet dog is called Enya.  She works with my dear friend Danielle in customs making sure no inappropriate or potentially dangerous things come along in peoples’ baggage.  I have such high regard for dogs with jobs and it is lovely to make her acquaintance.  Though clearly Enya is on the job and only has eyes for Danielle.

Eventually, I make it home to the Ohio River Valley, which is carpeted green with spring and there is even a bit of sunlight.

I settle in, and unpack a bit, catching up here at home, which feels really good.

Just like that, it’s my first day back home.  Coffee in hand (in my new hand painted mug from Guatemala), I walk outside with the dogs for our usual routine.  Almost like the last week never was.

And yet, it was.

I left for Antigua just over a week ago with a head full of the spin-cycle of modern life, but return now with a handful of worry dolls to carry those little things instead, and a heart filled with color, beauty, simplicity and love. Along with a huge dose of gratitude, which is a great gift indeed.  If you don’t shake stuff up now and again, all the good stuff sinks to the bottom.  We can’t have that.

Life in Antigua is quite easy and simple for tourists, or those residing there with money.  However, I believe that for the average citizen, life is probably a bit rough around the edges.  Yet people seem to get by for the most part.

Ever so creatively.

Shopping and laundry get done.

Money gets made, which can be a family affair.

Life goes on.  In some ways so very different than life here, and yet, mostly, pretty much the same.  To me, this was one of the take-aways from this trip.  I was reminded how very much alike we are as people. Human beans are so keen to draw lines between ‘us’ and ‘them’, when really, we are all just us.  My modern life, white skin and heaps of built in privilege are just the luck of the cosmic draw, really.  This is something to consider when we walk in the world.

I’m taking today to launder some well worn travel clothes, bathe my smelly dog, and enjoy a little quiet after the trip.  Perhaps a run and a bit of time in the garden as well if the weather holds.  I am enjoying the liminal, post-travel version of myself.  This mellow feeling that anything is possible and life is good.  Because it is.

I am thankful for the ways I have of connecting back to my travels in my heart of hearts, even as my life back home slides back into place.

My heart is wide open.  I am grateful for it.

Grateful for The Mountain


The New Year of 2014 began in much the same way others do.  Lots of discussion and notions regarding things we want to do better, more often, etc. and one such project that caught my eye online was one of the “365 Days of Gratitude” projects floating around.  (There are a number of them).  This particular one focused on the fact that many folks these days carry a camera around with us in the form of our phone and that we might try to utilize this tool to create a greater sense of gratitude in our daily lives.  And so, I quietly began to collect an image or so a day and started a saved blog post here that I would, in theory, share at the end of each month, or perhaps the year, filled with images of what makes me grateful.  And I came to some interesting conclusions fairly quickly.   

The first conclusion is that I already have a gratitude practice.  A practice firmly in place in my day to day, and hour to hour life.  Waking up to “Thank you for this day. Thank you for my health this day. Thank you for work that brings me joy.  Thank you for my family and friends.” is a far better approach to daily life than my now (mostly) long gone inner chatter of negativity.  These statements didn’t even have words wrapped around them until I started really paying attention to my inner dialogue and after years of working to re-wire this dialogue, I am grateful to have a different attitude about life overall.  This gift has been long and independently fought for over the years.  I already HAVE a gratitude practice.  So pinpointing things to be grateful for was a piece of cake.

My next conclusion began to make this project a little more daunting.  I came to the realization that I actually don’t use my phone as much as I might have thought I did. (actually a good thing)  I’d come to the end of a wonderful day, chock full of things that I was not only grateful for, but fully present for as well.  I wasn’t taking the pictures to put into my gratitude post!!  Which leads me to my final conclusion.

As beautiful as this exercise is, and as enlightening and eye-opening it might be for some folks, for me there was a clear indication that this exercise itself was leading me away from the mountain…..

In Neil Gaiman’s now famous 2012 commencement speech at The University of the Arts, he speaks about checking in now and then with how you are doing things and making one clear determination:  Is what you are doing causing you to walk toward the mountain (your goal) or away from it?  I adore this metaphor and have Taos Mountain in my mind whenever I check in to see in what direction I might be headed at any given time.  While the notion of wide-eyed, well-practiced gratitude is something that leads me TOWARD the mountain, the keeping track of the specifics regarding my most grateful moments quickly became something that would lead me AWAY from the mountain.  This was quickly and clearly evident as I would get to the end of the day and fret over not having taken a snap shot that day.  Ridiculous, right?  And so I’ve decided that in this post, I’ll share with you what I have collected up to now, and then leave the exercise at that.  I’ll simply go back to what was already working for me.  That said, I will also enjoy and applaud the daily gratitude efforts everyone seems to be into sharing these days.  It’s infectious.  And beautiful.  And I really believe it changes lives.  It has for me.  I am just not very good at taking pictures all the time!

So here are a few things for which I am truly grateful….. I’d love to hear how you keep track of your blessings.

Friends always willing to gather for a few tunes.


Tony clearing snow off of the cars after a storm.


Healthy feet to carry me on my runs where my best ideas are driven forth.


Mr. John Skelton, who drives over 2 hrs to teach classes at the Riley School of Irish Music each week.


Friend time and Puppy kisses


The courage to make a painting


The power of one small lightbulb to keep the bitter cold at bay

photo 3


Two healthy dogs


A banner trip to the library


My job and a new friend there


Ceili band practice


a magical warehouse frozen in time


Eggs in spite of the cold and gray.  Thank you, girls.


Magical gifts to enhance my letter writing practice

jan 14


A visit with Lu



photo 3


jan 20

A dear friend who is cancer free!

jan 15

Home made soup

photo 2

Kids still willing to be kids.

photo 1-1


And a few others of note…..

For folks who support and delight in the adventures of Ginger Small, a long awaited day to spend with a dear one who lives just across town (we didn’t take a single phone pic, we just enjoyed each other’s company), my son who swings by every so often to walk the dogs, for my own room in which to work.  I could go on and on.  And if you follow my twitter/facebook self, you’ll see other things I might take notice of.  But I suppose at the end of the day, I lean more luddite than technoholic.  This suits me just fine.