When my season of gratitude began two weeks ago, I already knew I could fill a harvest basket with the love I feel for my family, friendships, garden and a BadKitten. It’s easy to be thankful for joy, humor, comfort and grace when I see it in other people. It’s much harder to believe that I deserve a compliment or an act of kindness. The way I choose to remember something I’ve said or done often keeps me trapped in guilt or self deprecation. I realize now that gratitude can be my path forward, guiding me not only to appreciation, forgiveness and kindness toward others, but to myself.

Last week, a woman stopped on our sidewalk and saw me working in my flower bed. “I walk by your house often,” she said. “Your garden was so beautiful this year.” I thought of my flowers in August, and in my mind I saw only the parched roots and withered blooms that I had neglected to water. This woman remembered their beauty. And I said, “Thank you.”

In my vegetable garden this summer, I didn’t plant carrot seeds until mid-July, and then I fumed when only seven seeds sprouted in the high heat. I watered and waited for more to germinate, but my carrot crop topped out at seven. I was relieved when the first snow fell in October, deep enough to cover their lacy green tops. The seven carrots disappeared under the snow, and I didn’t have to look out the window and see proof of my procrastination. I wrote a reminder in my 2021 garden journal to sow the dang seeds in May, but embarrassment stayed with me.

As soon as last month’s snow melted, my husband, Lee, and I were outdoors, putting the gardens to bed before winter’s chill set in. At lunchtime, I found a bouquet of seven short, slender carrots, washed and ready for peeling, waiting in the kitchen sink. For months I’d thought of those carrots as symbols of another impetuous gardening failure. Lee had looked deeper, though, below the snow, rescued the carrots and made them clean and pretty for me. With new pride, I celebrated the sweet crunch of my homegrown carrots and went looking for my husband to say thank you.

I spent a few days last week clearing and preparing the flower beds for the protective compost I would spread over them. My Church of Dirt and Flowers is my sanctuary, but this project kept me on my knees, where the milky sun didn’t ease the cold and dampness. When my chief garden staffer appeared that day, my spirit warmed, as did my lap, where Benjamin BadKitten plopped himself down. He swished his tail in my face, his signature move when I’m in range, and purred as he rubbed against my sweater. For nearly an hour, my Maine coon cat kept me company while I stretched to reach sodden leaves and struggled to unsnarl webs of plant roots. Maybe if I’d been alone, I would have finished my work before dusk. Instead, in this season of gratitude, I rubbed BBK under his furry chin and said, “Thank you.”

Sydney Craft Rozen is learning that gratitude can be her path to peace. Email her at scraftroze@aol.com

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