Gratitude is a wild act.
To give thanks is to validate, to participate, to close the circle: to project energy, love and light toward someone or something outside of oneself, perpetuating a gift-economy far more lucrative than profit-driven capitalism.
Gratitude presupposes a belief in inter-being: the idea that humans exist not only as individuals, but as vertices of interpersonal, ecological webs, rich with organic complexity. Inter-being suggests that we are human, and alive, because we connect, and that our connections are multifarious; we are at once subjects and agents, constantly affecting one another through our words, breaths, sighs, blessings and actions.
Gratitude is self-perpetuating.
It amazes me and brings me hope to think that in an over-busied, under-spiritualized and culturally diverse nation, we’ve come together behind this one thing: an earthy, ritualized festival of gratitude.
We animals have a tremendous capacity to know the world through our bodies. Embodied knowledge–sensory data, and the inklings of our guts and bones–is something we don’t privilege enough in the Western world. But throughout the winter holidays, we remember.
Smells, hugs, flavors: we have imbued all of these with meaning and memory. We sense the seasonal temperature change and internalize the idea of shorter days, longer nights. We taste a casserole and remember the grandma who made it best.
Nothing could be more wild than these wintry, ritualized returns, to the places, stories and traditions with which we were raised. We do our hearts and families wild justice when we gather at the same moment every year to mark time, and to honor life, love, birth, and death.
My family has a tradition of taking holiday walks. We finish Christmas Eve with a lap around the block and head out on Christmas afternoon to a nearby nature preserve. Quiet skies shine with uncontested stars, and bare branches make it easier to spot and commune with winter songbirds.
I am grateful for all of these.
At the holidays, when our wild hearts are primed by gratitude–our senses peaked, our instincts tuned to deep, embodied knowledge–we would all do well to spend some loving time outdoors.