A Day for Contentment

The first blossom of Camellia ‘Yuletide’ opened Tuesday, right on schedule.

~
“It isn’t what you have or who you are
or where you are or what you are doing
that makes you happy or unhappy.
It is what you think about it.”
.
Dale Carnegie

We are entering the season where everyone we know wishes us happiness, merriment, and good fortune.  Greetings fly as freely as golden leaves showering down from the Ginko trees on DoG Street in Colonial Williamsburg.

We send our own flurry of “Happy Thanksgiving” wishes to everyone we encounter.  It is the catch phrase of the week to the checker at the grocery store, the clerk who sells us coffee, and every neighbor we meet out walking.

But do those wishes for happiness actually penetrate into our heart?  Do we feel that glow of happiness from the inside out?

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The first year in several that this Camellia has bloomed for us, I was startled by its beauty yesterday afternoon. For once, its buds survived to open. This shrub is a favorite for browsing once a deer gets into our lower garden.

~
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more.
If you concentrate on what you don’t have,
you will never, ever have enough”
.
Oprah Winfrey

I know many who are feeling anxious this holiday season, and too many struggling with grief.

We are inundated with images from the California fires.  We are still haunted by the enormous losses neighbors across the country have suffered in recent years from storms, fires, floods and shootings.  We pray for those immigrants caught on our Southern border without shelter this Thanksgiving season right along with those camping in Southern California after losing their homes in the fires.

Five minutes spent scanning headlines or watching the news is enough to drain the happiness right out of anyone.  Our national narrative is like a J.K. Rowling dementor that sucks the warmth and happiness away.

~
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“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough”
.
Walt Whitman

We believe that we are living in unusual times; the troubles we face unique in history.  That is not the case.  We are swept up in the currents and eddies of a long river of human history, much of it far worse for everyday folks like us than anything we might experience, now.

Despite the bleak news around us, we are also surrounded by stories of kindness, hope, good fortune and great joy.  President Lincoln was deep in the weeds of his own Civil War between the states, struggling with the great purpose of keeping our states together as one nation, when he declared a day of Thanksgiving in 1863He asked all Americans to come together on one day in gratitude for teh many blessings and resources our country shares.  He asked his neighbors to shift their focus to a higher power, and a higher purpose for our country.

Abraham Lincoln understood the simple truth about mental focus.  We can change our lives by changing the focus of our thoughts, our mental energy.

~
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“A quiet secluded life in the country,
with the possibility of being useful to people
to whom it is easy to do good,
and who are not accustomed to have it done to them;
then work which one hopes may be of some use;
then rest, nature, books, music,
love for one’s neighbor —
such is my idea of happiness.”
.
Leo Tolstoy
~

Oakleaf Hydrangea glows in scarlet, as the flower buds appear on our Edgeworthia behind it.

~

Maybe that is why Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays.  It is a celebration of abundance in all its forms.   It is a day for reflection.  It is the quintessential ‘low stress’ holiday.

It is enough to have a quiet day to enjoy with loved ones.  There is a special meal.  One may see friends or relations one hasn’t seen for a while.  There are stories, there is laughter, there is expectation of the holiday season that debuts on this day.

The first holiday lights appear cities, in neighborhoods and along country roads.

There is a feeling of contentment and abundance and connection.  For a few golden hours, we can be content with ourselves, wherever we may find ourselves.

~
~
“I am content; that is a blessing greater than riches;
and he to whom that is given need ask no more.”
.
Henry Fielding

And so I wish you, too, a happy Thanksgiving.  I hope your thoughts linger on the many things that make you happy and enrich your life.

If you are grieving, I hope you remember the good times with your loved ones and feel deep gratitude for those times you shared.  If you are away from loved ones, I hope you can touch with them today.  If your life circumstances have shifted, I hope you find the beauty around you, wherever you might be.

Our happiness comes from within, not from without.  This is the life lesson we discover as the decades roll past.

And this is what we rediscover each autumn, as the leaves fall and the world grows cold.  The most abiding warmth emanates from a loving and grateful heart.

~
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“We are not rich by what we possess
but by what we can do without.”
.
Immanuel
~

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Happiness This Thanksgiving: Transformation

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“Remember to give thanks

for unknown blessings

already on their way”

.

Valentina Giambanco

~

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“Living in thanksgiving daily is a habit;

we must open our hearts to love more,

we must open our arms to hug more,

we must open our eyes to see more and finally,

we must live our lives to serve more.”

.

Farshad Asl

~

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“Gratitude is the seed of gladness.”

.

Lailah Gifty Akita

~

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“Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.”

.

W.J. Cameron

~

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May the beauty of this day find you,
May joy bubble up in your heart,
May you know everyone near you as family,
May you feel the love  which surrounds you,
and may you enjoy the blessings of peace,
always.

~

~

Woodland Gnome 2017
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Our garden is ablaze in color today! Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

 

For the Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Transformation

Making Our Blessings Count

november-20-2016-clematis-002

~

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful

for every good thing that comes to you,

and to give thanks continuously.

And because all things

have contributed to your advancement,

you should include all things

in your gratitude.”

.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

~

Happy Thanksgiving day to you.  I hope it has been a good day, spent in a way that makes you happy and with folks you love.   Thanksgiving is a gentle holiday, and one that I especially enjoy.  I try to avoid travel and keep the day as low key as possible.

Whether at home with family, or gathered elsewhere with family, I’m always one of the cooks.  And I find satisfaction in creating a warm and satisfying meal filled with the flavors and memories which knit our years together into a seamless fabric of loving.

While we celebrate gratitude and appreciation on Thanksgiving Day, most of us are also gearing up for Christmas this time of year.  For many, that means sharpening up our shopping skills and compiling a list of holiday plans and desires.  Ironic, isn’t it?

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August's white flowers are transformed to seed heads, ready to begin again the life cycle of culinary chives.

August’s white flowers are transformed to seed heads, ready to begin again the life cycle of culinary chives.

~

“We should certainly count our blessings,

but we should also make our blessings count.”

.

Neal A. Maxwell

~

Thanks-giving is not a passive thing.  It isn’t about leaning back in our comfy chairs and thinking happy thoughts.

It begins with awareness; progresses to acknowledgement;  stops for a moment to express appreciation and love to others; and then gets down to the real business of using those blessings for the greater good.

Having a blessing isn’t enough.  We find ways to  make use of the goodness it brings to our lives, to make our lives count for something.

I’ve always thought of appreciation as an active thing; an investment in more joy and productivity.  What good are seeds left in an envelope?

~

november-24-2016-thanksgiving-011

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“Great things happen to those

who don’t stop believing, trying,

learning, and being grateful.”

.

Roy T. Bennett

~

Which brings us back to those holiday desires, which can wake us up and move us forwards.

Whether we’re formulating birthday wishes, sharing a Christmas list, planning a Christmas celebration, or pondering new year’s resolutions; we harness our imagination, our desire, and our personal energies to create a new reality for ourselves.

Gratitude and growth go hand in hand.  We appreciate the blessings we enjoy already, and then multiply that sense of happiness and well being into the next step.    We express appreciation to a loved one, in hopes they will use that good feeling as fuel for their own growth and evolution.

There is always more to accomplish, more to experience, more to learn, more to do for the benefit of others.  We just have to imagine it, and then fuel it with faith and confidence until it materializes in our lives.

Wisdom teachers tell us that our gratitude and appreciation attract more of the same into our lives.

But the reverse is also true:  when we complain and focus on what is lacking, when we criticize loved ones and take them for granted; we lose that rocket fuel called ‘love’ which feeds our happiness.  When we overlook the tiny miracles and blessings of each day, we put blinders on our hearts and imagination.  Eventually, we close ourselves off to the possibilities around us.

~

november-24-2016-thanksgiving-019~

“You probably have the ability

to get what you want.

And you likely have everything you need

to be completely satisfied.

But do you also have the ability

to want what you’ve got?

That just may be one of

the most important questions you will ever answer.”

.

Steve Goodier

~

But we all find obstacles in our path from time to time.  Perhaps a loved one’s illness or depression makes us put our own lives on ‘hold’ for a while.  We lose jobs we need, see the storms of chance change our lives in unexpected ways.  Things just don’t go according to plan….

Obstacles become detours, but the path stretches before us for as long as we live.  And meeting every obstacle with an open mind, a grateful heart, and determination to find the most benevolent outcome in each circumstance is how we keep moving towards a brighter, happier, more fulfilling life.

“Attitude is everything…”  We learn this as children, but practice it always.  Our attitude of gratitude serves us well, as we appreciate each and every day of our lives.

~

november-24-2016-thanksgiving-013

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2016

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A Forest Garden 2017 garden calendar is now available

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november-24-2016-thanksgiving-020

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“Thankfulness is an attitude of possibilities,

not an attitude of liabilities.”

.

Craig D. Lounsbrough

Happy Thanksgiving

November 11, 2015 Parkway 055

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I believe in the uncommon, the unusual and unlikely,

even the miraculous.  

I believe in nearly all things except impossibilities.

That I can’t fathom. ”

.
Richelle Goodrich

~

November 11, 2015 Parkway 054

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Gratitude is one of those ‘graces’ of the spirit, which once we find it, transforms the quality of our existence.  I’ve learned it is more an attitude, a habit of mind; which colors each day with openness to what unfolds.

We can find the workings of good fortune and infinite love in the midst of our lives, even as we face the challenges each new day brings.  It is in working through our challenges that our lives grow, in often unexpected ways.

It is usually  in the shadows of our day to day struggles that we come to understand the truth of friendship and loyalty; the self-less love which binds families; and the miraculous nature of our multiverse.

~

November 11, 2015 Parkway 052

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“Gratitude” is the theme of our A Forest Garden 2016 calendar,  just off to the publisher on Monday.  It is filled with photos celebrating the beauty of our garden as the seasons unfold.  And each month offers a new quotation about the power of gratitude and appreciation to shape our lives and transform our world.

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November 11, 2015 Parkway 057

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I wish each of you happiness and warmth on this new Thanksgiving Day.

May each of us find joy in the day, wherever we may be, and with whomever we share the holiday this year.

And may each passing year bring us closer to living in the grace of gratitude.  May we realize the power of a grateful mind and heart to fill our lives with joy. 

~

November 20, 2015 garden 008~

Woodland Gnome 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

November 27 2013 mantle 005

Thanksgiving morning has dawned clear, bright and cold here in Williamsburg.

A simply beautiful day, and a good day for traveling; which is very welcome news since our Thanksgiving dinner is already in preparation by loving hands…. elsewhere.  We have a pecan pie, some rolls, and of course some beautiful cranberry grape preserves to contribute to the feast.

November 27 2013 mantle 013

Vase by Dennis Orton glazed with a custom Raku glaze

I want to share a few photos of our mantlepiece arrangement, completed last evening.  This grows and changes a bit each year, and will probably change a bit more before the end of December.  This is the simplest of arrangements, depending on branches from the garden and items collected over the years.  The birds came from McDonald Garden Center in Virginia Beach.  They have such wonderfully imaginative displays.  The fairies, designed by Mark Roberts, were another McDonald Garden Center find.  This is our indoor forest garden, which we’ll enjoy from now until early spring.

Our very best wishes to you as we greet the season of the solstice, the season of light, preparing for Yule, Hanukkah, and Christmas.

Some of the glass orbs are from Glass Eye Studio, hand blown with ash from Mt. Saint Helens in Washington.  Others were hand blown in Portugal.

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2013

Appreciation

Mahonia

Mahonia

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought;

and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.

G.K. Chesterton

It is ironic that on this Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the day for making preparations, both practical and mental for Thanksgiving tomorrow;  we here in the United States confront prompt after prompt to acquire even more than we have.

This day before Thanksgiving has been very cold and wet.

This day before Thanksgiving has been very cold and wet.

It is an interesting truth that so often those who are richly blessed with all things material focus on wanting more and more, while those who have little materially are often overwhelmed with gratitude for the blessings and kindnesses already in their lives.

I’m thinking not only about our plans and purchases for our special meals tomorrow, but of the looming season of acquisition that our holidays have become.  And the retailers, big and small, remind us at every turn that it is our magical time of year to shop, beginning the day after Thanksgiving- or maybe on Thanksgiving day itself after dinner; or maybe even a few days early if we really want to get a jump on the “short” Christmas season.

This first bud opened on the Camellia yesterday.

This first bud opened on the Camellia yesterday.

My email “inbox” is full with offers of discounts from every retailer with whom I do business.  Turning on the TV for a weather or news update brings more sales pitches into the living room.

We are not encouraged to be grateful for the things we have, but to feel our need to go buy more.  (I began to suspect a few years back that the whole Christmas shopping season is craftily designed to allow us to buy discounted merchandise as much for ourselves as we do for the family and friends we bless with gifts each year.)

So how do we properly observe Thanksgiving?

An eagle and his mate were circling over the garden when I went out for a few photos today.

An eagle and his mate were circling over the garden when I went out for a few photos today.

Is it really about the meal, as the Cooking Channel experts and grocery retailers want us to believe?  Is it about reading the advertising and planning our most strategic shopping excursion to get a jump on everyone else?  Is it about enjoying the deep discounts retailers offer us so we can purchase their overpriced merchandise?

Perhaps there is another way.

Yes, I know that around most dinner tables tomorrow there will be a pause while someone says Grace over the meal.  Whether that moment is long or short, I hope we will understand that Thanksgiving is more than a day.  It is a life’s work.  And the point of Thanksgiving is to deeply appreciate the people, places, and opportunities we already have in our lives; not to feel compelled to acquire more.

Clematis so far have survived the cold nights and continue blooming.

Clematis so far have survived the cold nights and continue blooming.

The root of Thanksgiving for me is appreciation.  Appreciation begins with mindfullness; with paying attention and understanding not only the value of a thing, but how it “fits”.  We appreciate how comfortable our walking shoes are, and how they allow us to take that walk through the neighborhood.  We appreciate the companionship of our cat or dog, and how they warm and brighten each day.  We appreciate the friends and family who keep us company as we travel through the years.  And we appreciate the memories of those who have departed from us, for whatever causes separated their path from ours.

We appreciate our home, our community, the good soil in our garden, the birds who brighten the bare branches of our shrubs in winter, the hours of sunlight, the life giving rain beating on the roof as we drift off to sleep.  The things we truly appreciate in our lives rarely come from a store.  Things which bring us the deepest happiness are priceless, and never go on sale.

The petunias are still blooming, despite our nights in the 20s.  The Lantana is bitten by the frost, buy I hope the roots make it through until spring.

The petunias are still blooming, despite our nights in the 20s. The Lantana is bitten by the frost, buy I hope the roots make it through until spring.

This is an understanding it often takes decades to grow into.  What a kindness to help our children realize early on that the  gifts don’t bring happiness.  There is more to life than shopping.  Theodore Geisel tried to share this little lesson with his, “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.”  Perhaps some of us got it at the time, some of us couldn’t get past our compulsion to head to the mall.

I am taking a deep breath and stepping back from the madness of the retail world this Thanksgiving, as a conscious act of gratitude for what I have.  Rather than become distracted by the frantic need to “get it all done” and “get there on time,” I plan to stay at home and appreciate the peace and quiet of our garden.  I want to cook, listen to music, read, correspond with friends, and spend time with loved ones.

We’ve already put a string of twinkle lights on our little Norfolk Island Pine, who grew so happily on the patio all summer.  I put the branches and blown glass birds on the mantle today.  I’ll be making a wreath on Friday for our community center’s door with fresh Magnolia cut from a friend’s garden.  We are settled in for a wintery weekend in our forest garden.  And we wish a happy and peaceful Thanksgiving to You and yours

Our sky as the storm blows over us today.

Our sky as the storm blows over us today.

There are still gifts to purchase, cards to send, packages to mail; but they can wait until after Thanksgiving.

November 27 2013 009

Violas have such happy faces….

Let’s live in the present moment and savor the beauty around us, satisfied, and grateful; and enjoying the deep peace which only lives in a grateful heart.

Gratitude is the memory of the heart.  

Jean Baptiste Massieu

 

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. 

Thornton Wilder

A beautiful Grace for remembrance and appreciation

All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2013

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