All day I try to say nothing but thank you, breathe the syllables in and out with every step I take through the rooms of my house and outside into a profusion of shaggy-headed dandelions in the garden where the tulips’ black stamens shake in their crimson cups. I am saying thank you, yes, to this burgeoning spring and to the cold wind of its changes. Gratitude comes easy after a hot shower, when my loosened muscles work, when eyes and mind begin to clear and even unruly hair combs into place. Dialogue with the invisible can go on every minute, and with surprising gaiety I am saying thank you as I remember who I am, a woman learning to praise something as small as dandelion petals floating on the steaming surface of this bowl of vegetable soup, my happy, savoring tongue. To Say Nothing But Thank You One can never hear those words too often. Lohmann is breathing thank you in and out with every step, a worthy practice whether inside your home or outside. She sounds equally grateful for the lowly shaggy-headed dandelions and for the tulips whose black stamens shake in their crimson cups. She is saying thank you to this burgeoning spring, this slow-to-arrive season with the cold wind of its changes. There is easy gratitude for the hot shower, when eyes and mind begin to clear, when we can more plainly see all that surrounds us. Though of course, there are times when it is easy to forget to say thank you too. I like what she calls dialogue with the invisible, which is also my experience of paying attention with gratitude, thanks for what is, just as it is. She is a woman learning to praise even, or especially, the smallest details - yellow petals of dandelions floating on the surface of her hot vegetable soup, the visual effect, her happy,savoring tongue. Be it dandelions, hot water, a good soup, the last parking spot, there are always opportunities to say thank you, even if we say nothing else, even if we just breathe the thought.
Yes, our wedding was an eruption of joy,
never to be repeated. But I’m talking
the daily visitations, like a flock
of finches that appears as I emerge,
that circles above the house and me
three times, exactly three, before
heading east and promptly vanishing
against the peaks. The joys
so small they barely register—
the sight of clouds lenticular
advancing over mountains,
a perk of our geography. Coyote choirs.
A cottonwood bedecked with blackbirds,
all with Puerto Rico on their minds.
A spontaneous hug from the one
I’ve been cooped up with every day.
These many joys rain down as grace,
connecting mine to all lives,
mycelia groping through the wet
and giving ground.
All Joys Are Small
Having just experienced my daughter’s wedding as truly an eruption of joy, I delight in the poet’s choice of words, an outpouring of joy, never to be repeated in just that way. But then this poet wants to talk about the small joys, the daily visitations – a flock of finches circling her three times, exactly three, before disappearing.
She tells us these joys are so small they barely register – lens-shaped clouds that can form over mountains, a chorus of coyotes, migrating blackbirds with Puerto Rico on their minds – everyday
natural miracles we may overlook, including a spontaneous hug from someone we see every day but don’t expect which makes it even sweeter.
These many joys rain down as grace, a simple elegance that surrounds us, connecting mine to all lives. That phrase touches me, that these small joys are the link to all beings, our interrelatedness we often overlook. They are like a fungal network branching through the wet and giving ground. Just as mycelia are vital to our ecosystems, so joy is essential to the human spirit.
It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they’re supposed to be.
I’ve been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
Wait respectfully in closets
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?
I had not considered how the ordinary things around me might denote patience, might in their stillness, teach me to slow down by their calmness, their equanimity. This poet offers us a rich statement/question to begin: It is a kind of love, is it not? Does that not invite you to read further, to find out more about this kind of love?
She speaks of the very ordinary – the cup holding your tea, the chair on which you may be sitting at this very moment, the floor on which we stand, the soles of our feet which know Where they’re supposed to be. All this is love, found in the simple things we take for granted. And then she speaks of patience: clothes hanging in closets – respectfully no less, towels drying our bodies and my favourite, the soap which dries quietly in the dish – in truth, it makes no sound.
She leads us then to the lovely repetition of stairs, patiently replicating themselves to take us up or down without demands. Then that last question: And what is more generous than a window? I marvel at that description as I look out my kitchen window at the generosity of green leaves, climbing roses in my neighbours’ yard, redwing blackbirds streaking by. Generous, patient, ordinary – it really is a kind of love.
Small Basket of Happiness
BY Naomi Shihab Nye
It would never call your name.
But it would be waiting somewhere close,
perhaps under a crushed leaf
turned from pale green to gold
with no fanfare.
You hadn’t noticed
the gathered hush
of a season’s tipping.
Shadows flowing past
before any light came up,
people whom only a few
so much accompaniment
inside a single breeze.
All whom we loved.
In the quiet air lived
the happiness they had given.
And would still give, if only.
You would slow down a minute.
You would bend.
Just in the title, Naomi Shihab Nye, creates a visual image, a small basket of happiness – can you picture it? what would it contain? She assures us It would never call your name; it does not come looking for us; we must open our eyes to see how it may be waiting somewhere close.
She wants us to notice the gathered hush / of a season’s tipping, how easily we can miss that as the earth changes its position with the sun. There is so much accompaniment / inside a single breeze, so much just within that phrase – shadows, people you might remember.
It is these people, All whom we loved she invites us to recall, and the happiness they had given. Not only that they gave us happiness, but would still give, if only. If only, and I can feel the poem slowing down here, You would slow down a minute. If only you would bend toward the happiness that is waiting for you.
It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.
It could, you know. That’s why we wake
and look out – no guarantees
in this life.
But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now, like noon,
It could happen any time, says Stafford. And it does happen, more and more it seems – the floods, wild storms, uncontrollable fires, that bring destruction to our world. It could happen, as we all know, and yet, as the poet quietly points out, so could sunshine, love, salvation.
It really could be that these necessary things also happen. That’s why we wake / and look out, because if we are paying attention, we can notice that there is light, not only darkness. No guarantees he tells us, but possibilities if we look for them.
The last stanza of this deceptively short poem assures us there are some bonuses which can happen at any time, especially like right now. Look around you, stay awake to ensure you notice the beauty, to recognize what saves us – birdsong, trees greening, small acts of kindness. All the ways we can say Yes to this world.