I understand the concept behind Thanksgiving Day, really I do, but it can be tough to be grateful on a schedule, like clockwork, every year on the fourth Thursday in November. “Ding-dong, be thankful now.”
Of course, I’m always profoundly grateful for my family, friends and forebears, for my job and for having at least most of my health.
I’m thankful I can take long walks and have such a beautiful area in which to do so. I appreciate the views, the terrain, the environment, the climate and most of all, the people.
But sometimes, I just feel grouchy, even on the fourth Thursday in November.
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Maybe things aren’t working out for a nice Thanksgiving celebration. Maybe we’re dealing with illnesses or other problems. Or maybe there’s just too much bad news out there to feel upbeat.
Still, the good in life outranks the unpleasant. I just need to take the time to see the treasures and realize how much I appreciate them all.
For instance, the monarch butterflies are back in San Simeon, Pismo Beach and other Central Coast locales. And this year, some of the tawny orange insects are hanging around in our yard.
They seem to like the milkweed we’ve planted and set around in pots — inviting the monarchs in for tea, so to speak.
Maybe the butterflies will roost in our eucalyptus trees. We can hope.
The Monarchs are absolutely lovely, but they’re here so briefly. Of course, with a lifespan of from two to seven months, they’re anywhere very briefly, especially since they spend a good part of their lives migrating great distances.
When the monarchs leave, there’s plenty more beauty around, if I’ll just see it and be thankful for it, for however long as it lasts.
For instance, orchids are like butterflies on a stem.
Reputedly fussy and fidgety to grow, orchids are an exotic perennial herb that can turn grown, otherwise rational men and women into obsessive collectors who weep and wail if one of their treasured plants should kick up its testicle-shaped roots and expire.
Amazingly (since we’re all brown-thumbers), orchids seem to do well at the Tanner abode.
A guest asked me the other day how we keep our indoor phalaenopsis orchids so lovely.
I looked blank and said, “Water them, when I remember to. And feed them every so often, whether they need it or not.”
I don’t think she believed me. Orchids are fussy, remember?
I hate to disillusion her by admitting that my orchid-coaxing skills rank right up there with my ability to climb Half Dome, rebuild a carburetor or cure toenail fungus.
We’ve also enjoyed stately cymbidium orchid plants in full bloom. When the last blossoms die, we plop the plants outside along the edge of our garage. Then we ignore them.
Originally, I rationalized that the orchids’ greenery would camouflage the French drain without interfering with the runoff.
When the orchids expired, I figured I’d toss ’em.
But they didn’t die. Instead, they’re flourishing.
Imagine my astonishment, pleasure and yes, gratitude, this summer when one, then two, then three of the cymbidium plants decided to bloom again. It was like finding an unexpected gift on your front porch, getting a check in the mail or answering a call from a long-lost friend.
Orchids also gently remind me to appreciate beauty around me, no matter how small it is or how briefly it survives.
I was tidying up the plants when a seemingly healthy, vividly fuchsia-colored blossom fell off its stem. I tossed the flower onto the pile of wilted blooms headed for the green-waste bin.
Then sunlight beamed through the skylight, infusing the fuchsia blossom with a radiant glow, seemingly from within.
I picked up the orchid, put some water in a small crystal bowl and added the glowingly pink blossom. It’s still there, still floating, still alive, still fragile, lovely and stubbornly beautiful.
I’ll enjoy the loveliness of that orchid bloom for as long as it lives — just as we do with the butterflies it resembles — in the classic cycle of life and death, butterflies, rainbows, gardens and being thankful all the time, not just once a year.