Tag Archives: gratitude reflection

Zoe and the Frog


Zoe Burying the Frog

Zoe at Work

I had a disturbing incident in the garden last week. While checking the pond for fallen branches and debris, I heard a rustle and saw a long tailed creature with the head of a bulging-eyed frog creeping along. I was so shocked, I couldn’t move for a minute and the creature scurried away. Seconds later, I came to.

A small rake in my hand, I scratched along the pond’s edge and once again, the tan garter snake with a now recognizable frog in its mouth emerged. I yelled, “No, no.” as I whacked the rake down hard enough to wound. He had captured my biggest pond frog, the wide-bellied one, first to emerge from the muck this spring.

The snake was far too quick for my awkward efforts but he dropped the frog, too big to eat but not to injure. The frog was barely breathing; there was a slight twitch in his front leg. Could he survive such a brutal attack? I imagined not, but I could not bring myself to bury him in case, by some miracle, he might survive. I used the backside of the rake to lift and lay him on a lily pad where he continued to twitch.

My son, Craig, and granddaughter, Zoe, age twelve, were visiting that weekend. Earlier that day, Zoe had frolicked with the frogs—scooping them up to take a closer look then gently placing them back in the pond.

When Craig and I returned from a long walk, the frog was gone. Marv, her granddad, filled me in. Zoe had checked on the frog and noticed the twitching had stopped. She went to the garage, removed the long handled net to retrieve the frog and make certain he was dead. On her own, she searched out a shaded space, dug a hole, buried the frog and covered the grave with branches and leaves.

I first saw the tan snake with a black line down its back a few weeks ago. He was creeping around the pond’s low juniper; I assumed he was searching for eggs or pollywogs. I had no idea a snake so narrow and sleek would attack such a large frog.

Had I know, would I have tried harder to catch the snake? Some predators are too fast and wily to contain or catch. Garter snakes, mallard ducks, a gorgeous blue heron have all preyed upon the frogs. Over the years, I have learned that the best I can do is to chase the predators away when I see them. For that moment, they can do no harm and I am grateful.

Thankfully, after a full week of rain, a bevy of frogs have again emerged. Zoe and her dad have returned home. I am ever grateful to this tender child, almost a woman, for stepping up and saving me the sad task of another critter’s burial.






Foolish Worry

spring daffodils, 2016

spring daffodils, 2016

I spent the first day of spring readying for the return of winter. A storm was predicted for the Boston area. Leaves had piled up in the corner of the driveway where, miraculously, the wind had tucked them into a tidy pile. It was breezy, but not cold—the ideal day to don a hat, fleece jacket and gardening gloves to collect leaves that take flight from the forested back hill all winter long.

I have a special method—using a lightweight, concave snow shovel, I scooped up the crinkled, thin-as-paper American Beech leaves. I worked on and off for two hours, enjoying the rhythm of lift and fill until I had two barrels full to place on the curb. Gratefully, in my town, garden waste recycling pickup began the very next day.

I took breaks, walking the winding, flag stone path of my front garden, searching out signs of new growth. I noted forsythia and lilac buds in swell, pointy lily stalks in stretch. Six patches of daffodils, many in full bloom, stood tall. I worried how they would fare if the snow was bold, icy, and fierce. I took pictures to hold the moments of their fresh growth. Daffodils launch spring and usually display their yellow and frilly petals for two to three weeks. What hubris, to think that we were home clear, that winter was spent, thanks to el-nino’s seductive warming.

The next morning, I awakened to a thick, white crystal coating on the myriad of trees and shrubs surrounding my home. So focused on worry for my plantings, I had forgotten the sheer beauty and surprise of a white-bright, morning landscape. The snow was light and wet enough to cover every surface. Feathery-branched trees and gracefully shaped shrubs sparkled while I, grateful for their splendor, shimmered with delight.

All afternoon, spring’s rising sun dissolved the winter-scape and melted my worry. By dusk, I was certain the daffodils would survive.

In three days time, the garden returned to its spring appearance, only more so. The nubile plants stood taller, appeared greener. It turns out— a fact I learned from my WBZ-Boston weatherman— that snow contains abundant amounts of nitrogen, an element which enriches growth. Curious about the details, I learned from the Farm Journal site that as precipitation falls through the atmosphere, it collects atmospheric nitrogen. When snow collects on thawed soil, it melts slowly and allows a gradual release into the soil. A natural conversion of elements takes place. Since the ground is already thawed, the moisture and nitrogen seep deeply into the soil, adding to the total nitrogen content.

I am grateful for needless worry, the gift of a nitrogen enriched soil, and the joy of spring daffodils standing tall and refreshed.

The Discipline of a Gratitude Practice

The-Beach-At-Sainte-Adresse Claude Oscar Monet

Claude Oscar Monet

I find that gratitude is not a given. It needs to be courted and noticed to be experienced. Especially in this finger-pulsing, talky tech age, when speed and the Internet dominate our lifestyles, we need to consider alternative ways of being connected to our minds and hearts.

Consider an average day. If you are a doer like me, you fill your day with work, relationships, personal and home chores. How often do you give pause, take a deep breath and think or say aloud—I am grateful for….

More likely, you take a coffee break, check e-mail messages, text, call a friend or take a walk to get the Fitbit steps up. We pursue the tech rhythm—fast, quick, efficient, or so we believe. But what of the alternative— a conscious effort to step back, to pause and take a breath and reflect upon an event or experience which might elicit appreciation and bring lift to the spirit. For some, three deep breaths can engender thankfulness for what is given.

As a child, I was introduced to piano lessons at the tutelage of Miss Burke, a rigorous and proud New England Conservatory graduate who lived and taught in a studio apartment in Portland’s Longfellow Square. A dutiful student, I practiced an hour daily, arrived at her studio once a week, nervous to please and show competence. Miss Burke was strict about what made for good performance. All these years later, I am grateful for the lessons of discipline and its ability to harness and define a space and time for practice.

During my 82nd year, I initiated a daily writing practice in a gratitude journal. The first few months, I felt like a novice, reminiscent of my beginner self at seven years, approaching the notes of gratitude just as I did piano music, substituting the pen for the keyboard, practicing the felt sense of gratitude.

Nowadays, my sense of gratitude flows more easily, imbedded as a result of a year of writing. Of course, I sometimes need to pause, to prompt my mind, to scan my day, to consider the question— perhaps, with a list as I did last night after a too-full day. The challenge to recall and name each event helped me to focus and reflect on the event’s meaning and its effect.

When gratitude arrives spontaneously, in the moment, a sense of warmth and excitement ripples my gut. I literally say to myself—I am grateful to have you arrive—my signal to pause, to stop the action, to take note of the whole experience— such as how a friend’s intuitive comment resonates, causing me to feel less alone or how I attune to the seashore’s calling at  the scenic edge of Monet’s painting, The Beach at Saint Adresse.

The sense of gratitude is deeply personal and can be deeply felt. It must be noted, experienced and appreciated to become a daily practice. To know it is to hold it.