The winter solstice today, 21st December 2020, gifts us seven hours forty nine minutes and forty two seconds of daylight situated as I am just north west of London. I intend to make use of every second.
I decide my task will be to find seven reasons to be humbly grateful, to wish joy to forty nine people and to appreciate forty two beautiful things, spending a few seconds to actually see, feel, hear, smell, taste or visualise each one.
It would be tedious to publish everything I add to my lists so I will describe only a few of each. I will fill today’s precious daylight hours with life affirming, (I hate that expression but can’t think of a better one), activities…or stillnesses. I want to turn the memories of 2020 around. I can’t afford to write off a whole year, plus whatever portion of 2021 is also going to be squandered, focussing on a virus.
7 Reasons for Humble Gratitude
There only seven spaces here so I must prioritise as a short time spent thinking has made me realise I have so many more things to list. I could be glib and tick off family, friends, pets, garden… yet that only leaves three spaces for massive things such as freedom of thought and speech, poetry, freedom from war and starvation, a National Health Service, a pension, and no space at all for the tiny things, a generous smile, a fleeting expression of understanding on a child’s face, low sun flickering through skeletal branches and gathering on spent seedheads, silence, hilarity, the warmth of a dog’s small body snoozing on my feet…how can I possibly sort and categorise all these reasons I have gathered, after only ten minute’s contemplation, for humble gratitude?
I need to zoom out; take a strategic view; a bird’s eye view maybe; look for chapter headings: love, country, nature, medical knowledge and innovation, democracy and diplomacy and those willing to practice it on our behalf, science and research, education.
For a while I’m happy with these separate fields…but as I make myself coffee I fall to pondering. Are they separate? Should medicine be in with science? Is democracy a sub heading under country? If so, then what would fill the freed spaces…maybe tolerance? Law and order – or is that country again? Does tolerance fall under Education? How about the freedoms – speech, worship, sexuality, movement?
By now my head is abuzz and I feel as though I have lost the point. I want today to be full of gratitude and recognition of positivity, spreading joy, acknowledging beauty.
Irritated, I move on, needing to refocus…maybe I’ll leave the gratitude list for a while.
Sharing Joy 49 times
This will be much more straight forward. In common with many people this year, and of necessity, life has shrunk and I’m not sure I can fill these forty nine slots at all. So: two children and their spouses (spice?); grand-daughters; mother, sister and her husband; niece and spouse, nephew and spouse plus 5 various offspring; assorted grand-in-laws; writing companions; painting companions…
I’m over the limit already and I still need to list close friends and their offspring, neighbours – and then I remember my intention to send hope and joy through the ether to those who kept the world turning through 2020’s trials, anyone suffering or bereaved through Covid 19, those displaced across the globe, the hungry, homeless …and so I find that what I need to do is zoom out, again.
How can that work? Surely I need to name them to direct my gift of joy their way. But then I think, as I prepare, then eat, lunch – by attempting to list them have I not already named them with joy in mind and heart?
So they number more than forty nine but joy shared cannot be counted or limited. I cannot offer it to some while denying it to others. So I spend some time visualising all the people and groups of people for whom I wish joy, (I’d like to say forty nine minutes, but I’m guessing it has taken longer than that, anyway, whose counting – not me any more), I spend some time going slowly back through my list and as I do more people spring to mind. Those I knew but have lost either physically or just in the mists of time, those on whom I have spread scorn throughout this strange year, those I can’t think of at all because by now my mind is in shreds and I am superstitiously bothered by the fact that I have left someone or someones out.
I cheat. I wish joy to humanity.
42 Beautiful Things
By now I’m mentally exhausted. I sit cuddled into my armchair, feet being slow roasted by the fire, (and so it becomes obvious that I think in pencil, not on an electronic device), I will set parameters.
It’ll be things which are right here, right now: the fire; two terrier cross dogs slumbering on my lap (hang on, plus the other four who are out of sight); the comfy chair; the low sun creeping down the window pane; the thoughts behind the greetings cards on the shelves, the dogwood twigs on which hang cherished and mostly home made baubles, the smell of afternoon toast my other half is in charge of producing.
By now I am approaching the 42 limit so I mentally group all the card messages into one big item. Off I go again, the hyacinths and their delicious scent, a forerunner of spring. I turn to look out on the garden, begin to list individual plants…then lump them all together. I glimpse the fields beyound where the dogs are walked twice daily. they become one as I realise I have many other beautiful things around me right now. The glow of firelight on the wooden floor. My tablet and the internet which keeps me in touch with the world in this curtailed existence we are enduring. The two paintings I have completed of grand daughters. The painting skill isn’t beautiful but the girls both are. The warm russett of the dress I’m wearing. The warmth of tea on my throat. The family photos spread around the room. Did I say dogs? Yes I think I did but my scribbles are running in to each other as my mind hurtles along listing the beauty in my life.
Then I pause. The most beautiful thing is just that – everything. My life. Life is beautiful. The sun has disappeared from sight now. The fire needs stoking. The daylight has waned to that mysterious liminal time between winter day and winter evening. My time is up.
I just have time to write three things on a new page.
I am grateful for my life.
I wish joy to humanity.
Life, all life, is brim full of beauty.
I set the pencil aside. Shoo the dogs on to the floor and go to switch on the light…something else to be grateful for… light in the darkness.