Mortality and Thanksgiving: Why Cemeteries Are Good Spots on Turkey Day

On Thanksgiving morning I found myself walking through a cemetery, thinking about aging and mortality.

Not, initially, because of the tombs. No, I was feeling old because this cemetery, huge and scenic, used to be a favorite run of mine when visiting my Bay Area cousins. And lately I’ve been struggling with a knee injury and have pretty much given up running while I let my meniscus heal. And I slipped on a steep driveway and whammed the hell out of my tailbone. And I turned 56 and found a bunch of grey hairs nesting in the under-layer at my temples.

OK, that last one doesn’t count as an injury. Or even an insult. I don’t MIND the idea of aging…as long as it stays an idea. The reality, I’m discovering, is not quite as easy-peasy.

And that’s what I was thinking about on Thanksgiving as I walked through the cemetery. Which is why these fallen leaves brought me so much joy. “Look!” I could imagine the leaves saying. “Color! Let’s celebrate our impending demise!”

Goodbye cruel world!

Is that not the best defense against inevitable decay: celebration? Color? Suddenly I was seeing it everywhere, like these petals on the sidewalk.

So much was I appreciating my own personal discovery of the “when I am old I will wear purple” approach, that I nearly walked by this startling tombstone:

Well, hello there!

Wing, you see, is not a common last name. In fact it’s quite rare. And it’s certainly not Jewish! So seeing this stone with its Hebrew letters in the Jewish section of the cemetery (anyone else find denominational cemeteries ridiculous?), well…it gave me pause.

And then, like the colored leaves and petals, it gave me joy.

Because I’m mortal, I appreciate the beauty and the time and the health that still remains for me. If I weren’t, I’d take it all for granted. I’d walk right by those leaves and petals. I would forget to cherish the non-splendid, ordinary  moments that are the equivalent of leaves in a sidewalk.

You know what I mean: those thanksgiving moments—with a small “t.” The ones that count the most.

Happy those.

 

Road Trip VII, Days 29-31: Down ‘n’ Out in Estes Park, Colorado–NOT

Getting sick sucks. Getting sick on vacation in Estes Park, Colorado, gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park? That’s a bit harder to sound-byte.

Pretty sweet spot for a town, right?

On the one hand, I couldn’t do my usual racing-around-seeing-things stuff. Hiking? Noooo.  Biking? Also a no, thanks. Shopping–nope. And it’s hard to get excited about discovering restaurants when you’ve lost your appetite.

But on the other: I’m on VACATION. I get to lie around and not feel pressured about all the work I’m not getting done! What could be more fitting?

Even better, attitude-wise: getting sick when you’re vacationing with a friend with a scary heart condition.

The one hike I did manage, at 9,000-ft. altitude, had me gasping for breath and walking in slo-mo. Which is exactly what our friend does ANY day he hikes at altitude.

Pretending I don’t feel like curling up for a nap

So, Gretchen’s pity-party was swiftly cancelled. I spent the rest of the weekend soaking up scenery from the car or the window of our rented cabin, and soaking up friendship.

Long’s Peak–a LONG way away, thanks to the miracle of telephoto

Rocky Mountain hiiiiigh….from my car window….

Oh, and that friendship that was in danger of being tested by sports fanaticism? The sports gods were kind to me: our friends’ UCLA Bruins lost on Friday while our beloved North Carolina Tarheels won, so we all cheered together on Sunday as the Heels advanced to the Final Four. Just so you know. 🙂

Thanks, Nature. I needed that.

It’s a lesson I can’t seem to learn too often: compassion and gratitude beat back self-pity every time.

That Annual Thanksgiving List We All Love to Write

Pretend you’re in third grade. It’s the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and your teacher just gave you That Assignment.

Now pretend it was your idea all along. With me? Let’s do this. Here’s mine:

This year I am thankful for…

…the good health of my family, myself, and most of my loved ones.

…the communal strength, love and support that continues to go out to those in need of it.

…the power of Nature’s everyday beauty that she keeps surprising me with (Spiderweb! Lichen! Wing of thrush!)

…really DARK chocolate

…the way gardening and eating local food is re-awakening in America

…my amazing amalgam of work, which allows me to get my hands sticky, get paid, interact with lovely people, and still retire to the quiet of my writing bench

…those hard-working folks still teaching and nursing and fixing pipes FULL TIME (y’all know who you are; I am so grateful to you–please let me make you pie!)

…friends who push me to improve my Spanish and my guitar-playing.

…mis hijos. Los dos.

…my Mate. Always. Always. But somehow, after 37 years–increasingly.

So...freakin...grateful!!!!!

So…freakin…grateful!!!!!

Know what? I could do this all day. How ’bout you? What’s at the top of your gratitude list? HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

PS–don’t forget to #optoutside this Black Friday!