I’ve written about the ideas of mindfulness and gratitude a number of times on this blog, but since we’re a few days away from a national holiday that celebrates being thankful, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to to look at a poem from Mary Oliver that examines both. Oliver is an American poet born in 1935 who has won both the Pulitzer and the National Book Award. She writes in the Romantic style and her poems focus on the natural world as an evocation of what we feel as human beings. Our lives are complex and multi-layered, a fact that is heightened by modern technology, and we may often feel a sense of confusion as we try to remain clear about what’s most important. Oliver’s poetry suggests that the answers can be best found in the simplest of thoughts. Her poem “Praying” is a perfect example:
It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.
“Praying” begins with the idea of mindfulness and the need to be aware not only of “the blue iris” that is the showstopper of the garden, but also of “the weeds in a vacant lot” that we might ordinarily tend to pass by. What is it that grabs our attention on a regular basis? Is it the latest CNN headline, or social media, or an ongoing controversy at work that takes center stage for us? Oliver suggests that we need to reach a quiet place where we find the everyday moments that are small and unassuming, and often overlooked. Once we find that stillness within our own minds, we can try to craft an expression of gratitude, beginning with just a few small words. Again, she cautions us not overdo it by complicating our speech as if we are competing in some type of contest, but rather to seek simplicity instead. If those first words are offered in the true spirit of thankfulness with eyes that are willing to see even the most minute details, then we will step through the doorway into a heartfelt prayer of genuine gratitude. The remainder of the words will come to us because we’re ready to receive them.
What does this mean for us in a practical sense? It means that we begin each day by cultivating awareness and by observing the simple things that truly move us emotionally and spiritually. Maybe it’s something as fleeting as the way the light comes into our bedroom, or the smell of our first cup of coffee brewing, or the sound of the rain. How often do we take a moment to consider these things? Or maybe it’s something joyful like the sweet words we wait for each and every morning from someone we love. How often do we pause and really feel that person’s presence? Or maybe there is sorrow or anger in our hearts because of a loss we’ve experienced. How can we possibly connect with a positive emotion like thankfulness when we’re in such a dark and heavy place? In this instance, it may involve us focusing on those first feelings of appreciation for our ability to go on loving, or for our wisdom in knowing it was time to surrender, or in our hope that our sorrow will open us to the recognition of a profound truth. In any case, it begins with the tiniest awareness, a small stirring in our hearts, if you will, that can become the “doorway” through which we articulate our deepest thanks.
For today’s cocktail, I wanted to build a drink around the herb that symbolizes gratitude. Who knew that it was parsley?? I began with a base of Hanson’s Organic Cucumber vodka, to which I added a Douglas fir eau-de-vie from Clear Creek, a craft distillery in Oregon. Because this spirit is very strong, just a small amount of it was enough to establish its presence in this drink, and that allowed me to use a full 3/4 ounce of parsley simple syrup. I added lime juice to balance the sweetness, and I topped the drink with some chili oil drops just to serve as a reminder of the idea that even the smallest amount of something as powerful as gratitude can be enough to change our outlook on life. Cheers everyone. Happy Monday!
The Doorway Into Thanks
Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until very cold. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a sprig of parsley. Give thanks for all that you hold closest to your heart.