Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude, and what it means to be grateful. And truly, I’m thankful for many things in my life. Every morning in the midst of my rush-hour commute, I allow myself a few meditative moments to focus on the qualities in others that I aspire to foster within myself. I pay my respects to my family, friends, and loving partner for their endless support. I also recognize that a little self-love goes a long way, so I remind myself that even on my worst days, I’m worthy of the light that they shine on my life. Then I take a moment to thank the Universe for the warmth of the sun. I extend my attention into the tips of my toes and feel the ground beneath the tread of my worn New Balances. The tingling sensation in my fingertips signals to me that yes, I am in fact alive. And frankly, that’s an unfathomable feeling (until you have it)—to know that even if you were to lose everything else, that simple sensation of being is enough to be grateful for.
Gratitude is more than a rushed prayer said once a year round the Thanksgiving table out of obligation to the spirit of the holiday. It’s more than thanking a stranger who holds the door.
Gratitude is acceptance – acceptance of the balance of the world, of the equilibrium between light and dark. I am grateful for the sunshine when it warms my skin. But I am also grateful for the shadows cast by towering trees. The Earth survives through a delicate balance of opposing forces. The sun can be tender in the early hours of the morning as it stirs the world awake; but glaring directly overhead, it bakes into our flushed skin, leaving us feeling tender and alive. In the dead of winter we crave the return of light. The ache of summers past carries us through the frost. Gratitude is hope. Hope that the light will return.
People say that hope is knowing that the sun will shine after every storm. But I think hope is understanding that rain is a part of life and embracing it, too. True hope is knowing that even when the sun is too weak to break through the barricade of thunderclouds, we can draw on the light of humanity to burn away the bleakness. So I am grateful, too, for the Earth in shadow. I am grateful for towering thunderclouds and slate skies. I am grateful for the smell of the air after a summer storm – like crushed earth. I am grateful for the green flush of the forest awakened by rain. But I am especially grateful for the sunshine that lives in the hearts of humankind. It sustains life. It sustains love.
Only through acceptance can we transfigure darkness into light.
But acceptance is an active process. Living in gratitude requires developing a gratitude practice. And it truly does take practice. Some days I fall short. Some days I struggle to stay afloat my stream of consciousness. Some days I get so lost in my thoughts that I get swept away by the current altogether. But I forgive myself. And I thank the Universe that I get another day to try. Another day to embrace the good and the bad, the light and the dark. Another day to be a courier of hope for a fellow tired soul. You never know who may hustle by on the sidewalk or pull up next to you at the intersection, just waiting for a signal of hope.
Featured writer and photographer Morgan primarily paints, but dabbles in other crafts including weaving and hand embroidery. She garners inspiration from the place where natural Earthly elements and purely imaginative, other-wordly color-scapes meet. Morgan lives in Philadelphia. You can find her on Instagram at embe_modern.
Hope in Contrast
What cometh after vicious rainstorms
But the welcome sun?
What arises from scorched forests
But fresh, verdant growth?
What develops from dizzying loss
But profound gratitude?
What sings a song eternal
But glorious hope?