It's a little tricky to affect an attitude of gratitude these days, with so much to be reviled and rejected--Bush and all that he connotes being foremost on my mind, of course--but 'tis the season. Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday. It's all the good things about Christmas without the stress. I look forward to getting into the time machine and going back, back to the place where people still see me as 15-year-old; to houses and towns that were once home, but are not any more; back to the place where Me in the present tense gets put on hold so I can play the part of daughter or granddaughter or far-away friend. At 43, I feel lucky to still have so many people to go see: my 92-year-old grandmother is more treasured with every November because ever since anyone can remember, she has sworn This was her last Thanksgiving. One time soon, this person who was the anchor of my earliest travels in the world will be gone, and my world will not be the same. I try to tell her how much I'm aware of her influence on me, for better and for worse, but she won't have it. She's not one for sentimentality or good-byes, but it seems like she's been saying good-bye to us forever. I'm grateful for what I learned from her about paradox.
The trip back to Chicago is always quiet, as I try to reorient myself to my life as I know it, shake off the past like it's snow in my hair. Every year, I come away with an ache that feels both familiar and new. Is it nostalgia? Disillusionment? A mild case of indigestion? It's one of those feelings that has no English word, something like zeitgeist in Germany. I touch who I was once and know profoundly that I am not who they see now. But they are so many pieces of me: Leah, my niece, a little wildflower planted in my chambered heart; my nephew Sam, who once believed--and made me believe--I was a mermaid; my Sister Moon and Leo mother, the other facets of my trinity, the three faces of my Eve; my brother-in-law, father, and stepfather, who circle warily at these tribal gatherings, withdraw into their own understandings of our strange customs; my cousin Evan, standing at the precipice of adulthood, looking around to see who will be his mentor and guide; my Aunt Donna and Uncle Chris, without whom I would have never become much of anything; and my Aunt Gisele, newly returned to my life, bearing gifts and glad tidings. These are just a few of the voices in my interior, the opportunities I have had to love and be loved--my blessings.
My daughter is alive and as well as can be expected in Iraq, and we are slightly more optimistic than not that she will be "home" early in February. What does she count as home, I wonder, in her nomadic desert life? Is she old enough yet to see her good fortune and know its worth? I have let her go, but I will not cease in wanting her happiness and health. Should she return to us whole, inside and out, my gratitude will know no bounds.
I am blessed beyond measure for the year I've just had, too; a year turned inward, relieved of the pressure and distraction of the world. I've been in my own private Tibet this year and I think its quiet will mark the rest of my inner life. I've had time to write, to think, to study and read more than ever, and to be still and listen. It would not have been possible without my sweet and sunny Goat Girl, who would bear any burden for love. In her odd way, she has taught me much about optimism and hope. She has made me want to be a better person, and better yet, she has helped me become one. I can only aspire to become as generous in spirit as she already is. (Sorry, folks, she's taken.)
I am reminded lately of a vision that burned itself into my brain when I was about 30: I would see it every time I closed my eyes, a golden triangle standing on its point in the palm of an upturned hand. What does it mean? I asked. The answer came some time later, by increments and in varying forms, but its essence was ask, and you shall receive. It was more than a hotline to Santa. It was a blessing, a responsibility, and an understanding that I was already living in abundance. For all my hopeless despondency, I cannot deny that my life reflects more of heaven than hell. It was true yesterday, it's true today, and it could possibly be true tomorrow. Possibly not. For this reason I am going to spend these next few days looking wide-eyed at the good raining down in my life, noticing the way each drop radiates rings along its surface, circle into circle, forging links that bind me to then and now and whatever the future holds, weaving me into the lives of others and giving form to my intricate, ephemeral soul.