On the Heath Daisy dances in the deep white. Since she’s started on the drops which dilate her pupils, maximising the visual capacity, defying her burgeoning cataracts, she’s like a different dog. I know it may only be temporary and that even if she undergoes surgery, her sight problems may only be eased for a while. But still. Through the woods and up over the hill towards a winter sun greyed but not obscured by the snow clouds. This might be the only time we will be able to look at snow together as well as feel it beneath our feet. She buries her head in it. I do not.
Experience takes on new meaning and intensity when we are aware of its scarcity. When something is finite it becomes all the more precious. Death is the most powerful motivator.
It’s sometimes hard to feel grateful, and much easier to settle upon the myriad reasons for feeling disgruntled or cheated. The idea that we have much to be thankful for is often a conclusion reached with the mind while the heart is left trailing far behind, kicking its heels in a sulk.
Deep in the emotional dark, I once clipped an article from a newspaper. It was an interview with a man who cared full time for his chronically depressed partner and disabled son. His life was absorbed twenty-four hours a day with challenge and upset. I thought that looking at it from time to time would make me feel less miserable about my own privileged and straightforward life. It’s a flawed strategy which didn’t work for me and, I suspect, does not work for anyone.
We cannot haul ourselves down towards others misery, only up to the realisation that misery is not all there is. This is the road on which gratitude lives.
Today I can’t make it to Tenterden because my car won’t start. One hundred and seventy-four thousand miles is enough apparently. The runner is falling off the door and the roof leaks. The rent still needs to be paid but I can’t work because of the snow. That combined with the thought of Daisy’s forthcoming vet bills is enough to make anyone shudder, regardless of the cold. Then the heel detaches from my wellington boots in a particularly deep patch of snow.
Of course, these are trivialities, but there is frequently worse available to ponder. If you allow yourself to do so.
To focus on the darkness, the slippery paths or the bitter cold is easy. But we can look in another direction. A walk to the park, being pulled by a puppy so eager to run in the snow that, had I hitched her to one of the red plastic toboggans which hang in the garage, we’d have reached our destination much faster and in greater style. Gratitude is simply a choice.
There is hardship and disappointment. There is sadness and regret. There is frustration, sometimes in greater measure than we seem able to endure. Even though we are forced to experience uncomfortable emotion for longer than feels acceptable, there is more beyond and within.
As Robert Frost once wrote. “The best way out is through”. Don’t disregard the shards of beauty you might encounter on the way.