Gratitude and Vignettes
Parrots, gratitude cloak, and a series of simple moments.
[I have now recorded a full podcast version. I’ve embedded it above… it’s not a true voiceover…. but parts of it are. Those who prefer to listen in a podcast app can pull up Episode 490.]
Happy Sunday! We are almost two weeks into November, a gratitude-focused month. I hope you are thinking about gratitude, looking for gratitude, writing down the this’s and that’s each day, folding each gratitude or rolling it into a tiny scroll and slipping it into a jar. Or maybe you have the perfect ceramic bowl. Maybe you are folding each one into a crane. Or into a paper airplane. Maybe you have fortune cookies, and you are carefully sliding each slip of paper into a cookie. Maybe you are collaging a wall. Maybe you roll each one between your fingers and into thread that you wind around little spools. Maybe you are learning to spin.
These images are somehow comforting, but it is the process of naming gratitude that has meaning. It is the doing. It is the awareness. It is the willingness to look. The stack you have at the end isn’t what is important.
When sprinkled throughout your day, a part of your morning routine or evening wind-down, gratitude becomes a simple point of reflection, one that doesn’t keep score, doesn’t count pages, doesn’t depend upon excess. The three or five or seven I write in the morning are forgotten by the next time I sit and write a small gratitude list. I have no interest in numbering them sequentially. Gratitude is not a race. Gratitude is not something to benchmark.
A gratitude practice can be a process of nurturing awareness of enough, a simplification of thought, a distilling of time and place. I am grateful for the green fleece jacket I pulled on this morning. I am grateful for a single pair of tennis shoes. I am grateful for an hour of morning before work. I am grateful to have seen a flare of wings as a raven flew into the trees just now.
I had other plans for today, but like last week, the art led the way. The art is about the embroidering of a gratitude cloak, the gathering and winding of gratitude threads, the mindful stitching. I mentioned this last week, which means the art is trailing behind. That could mean a post with no words, but that probably won’t happen.
Today, a series of small, quiet vignettes and some simple panels.
I have been thinking about the fact that I throw things in the air, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and often, the thing that felt most important drifts to the ground without a sound. It may be that all the other dots are partly there as camouflage, an unwillingness on my part to simply shine a light. I think that the juxtaposition of vignettes has always been my method, an emphasis on the holistic rather than the individual, a belief in the overall fabric, the gist from afar. These are simply writerly thoughts, storytelling thoughts, wonders and worries. My approach and my voice are my own. The connect-the-dot approach remains one that is true to me, one that has meaning.
Today’s vignettes are all snippets. I am going to number them, but we can think of them all as 1.
Thank you for sharing time with me, maybe a cup of coffee or tea. Thank you for reading.
1. I found the peanut butter in the fridge.
I was getting something out, and I happened to notice the peanut butter without really thinking through what I was seeing. A few minutes later, it hit me. Did I really see the peanut butter in the fridge? Evidently, I did. (It was good it had registered because I wasn’t looking for it yet, but I needed the peanut butter for what I was mixing up, and I would never have found it.)
2. A conversation.
“Would it make you feel better if it was a leaf?”
“It’s not a leaf.”
3. I was driving home from an appointment this week and saw a bunch of “green” ahead of me, a mural on a building. It’s a very green mural, intensely green, exactly the kind of green I love.
My mind was spinning from the appointment I’d had, an appointment I’d been concerned about. I was approaching a stop sign when I saw the wall of green. I slowed, fumbling to get my phone on to snap a quick photo before stopping, turning, and driving home. (There were cars behind me. You can’t dally at the stop sign to take photos.) The photos are a bit blurry, but the mural is beautiful. I knew, as soon as I saw the green ahead of me, that this unexpected mural was my moment of gratitude for the day. I didn’t have time to study the mural. It was mostly a wall of green. Did I register hands and flowers in that moment? Maybe. It was a domino in a chain, a beautiful moment of awareness.
Here’s the weird thing… when I pulled up the photo after I got home, I noticed that within the overall green of the mural, there is a parrot. I mentioned the wild parrots recently. These green parrots are a symbol for me. They are signs. They appear at certain moments. They herald something. They signify something. That there is a parrot in the mural that I chanced upon after leaving a doctor’s appointment meant something.
Even weirder? When I parked before the appointment, I sat in the car for a minute, trying to decide if I thought the spot was okay or not. I worry about leaving the car. I worried maybe it wasn’t really a parking spot. Does the slight off-gray of the curb mean something? Am I missing a sign? Am I really in a driveway and just overlooking it? Anxiety grows. This visit will be fine. The car will be fine.
I sat in the car, and I heard parrots. I heard them overhead, close. I peered up and out the window, hoping to catch sight of them. I couldn’t find them, but I heard them. I smiled. And then, on the way home, I saw the mural. A mural with a single parrot.
4. The process of working on the panels for the week is becoming the glue, the unexpected glue. It is like using purple school glue. You see it going down, and then it dries, the trail invisible.
This was my graphic novel challenge for the week.
(If you listen to old shows, you will find the gratitude cloak, which I often call a “mantle,” appears throughout the years. I noticed that one of last year’s shows is Episode 475: A Gratitude Shield. No doubt, it is related.)
5. I took a quick walk before heading into the library. As I neared the end of the block, I saw a yellow rose bush with a few lingering yellow roses and one single lavender rose.
“A yellow rose bush with a lavender rose,” I thought to myself. “How unbelievable.” But it appeared to be the case. One bush. Two colors. I walked on to the end of the street, wondering about hybrids, and then I turned to walk back. As I approached from that angle, I could see that there were really two short stalks. The lavender rose (of course) was from its own bush. The way the bushes have grown, it looks like a single bush from the other direction. From one side, it seems as if the lavender rose has sprung up in the middle of the yellow, a surprise, an act of defiance. Or hope. Or whimsy. Or grace. It was nice not knowing. It was nice thinking such an oddity might be possible or that such an oddity is impossible and yet there it was in front of me. Knowing strips the mystery. Knowing is a bit sad. I was grateful though for the moment of whimsy. I am always grateful for a lavender rose.
6. I drew a small teddy this week. I drew a few cars, too, and some chunky little figurines.
I did start this month’s gratitude project over. I didn’t use a smaller page, but I did use purple ink. I also drew hands holding an origami crane, a woman blowing bubbles, and, yes, a parrot. Not a green parrot though. This is the kind of parrot you probably think of when you think of a parrot. Is there a bit of irony in the fact that I looked for a wild parrot photo for last Sunday’s drawing group and ended up going with this run-of-the-mill parrot? Irony in the fact that I’d planned to draw a parrot, a stand-in for the wild parrots, and lined that up the day before I ran into the mural? (Is any parrot really run-of-the-mill? No. But the San Francisco ones don’t remind me of the colorful macaws I think of when I think of parrots. The wild parrots here are vibrant green and red, but rather plain overall.)
“The Cherry-headed Conure (Aratinga erythrogenys) averages 13 inches in length. It's mostly green with a red head, red epaulets on the shoulders of its wings and a cream colored eye ring. The bird is known to ornithologists as the Red-masked Parakeet.” — Mark Bitner, author of Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill
7. “Of course I know what a möbius strip is. Knitters make möbius cowls.” There’s math. And there’s knitting.
8. I walked up the hill and looked out at the sun dropping behind the water.
That walk was a lifetime and a lifeline. It isn’t the distance; it’s the history. And the scale. I feel so small standing there and yet so rooted in my body, so solid, so present in the simple act of walking.
9. I made baked feta pasta again.
It was even better this time. I saw a similar recipe with roasted vegetables and ricotta. Definitely seems worth a try. (Related, Baked Feta and a Gratitude Project)
10. There were headlines this week about a hybrid wolf on the loose.
I had to go look up what that even meant. I definitely wouldn’t want to run up on one while walking on the streets. (Ironically, one of the Hilda books I just finished comes to mind: Hilda and the Black Hound.)
And there were ten. A random ten. An assorted ten…..
“One a penny, two a penny, hot cross-buns…”
Gratitude Tracking and Musing
As mentioned last week, I am keeping my gratitude tracking in a separate post. I have now split that log into separate posts, so now there is a part two.
"I truly believe we can either see the connections, celebrate them, and express gratitude for our blessings, or we can see life as a string of coincidences that have no meaning or connection. For me, I'm going to believe in miracles, celebrate life, rejoice in the views of eternity, and hope my choices will create a positive ripple effect in the lives of others. This is my choice." Mike Ericksen
I read many things this week that made me question myself, my voice, my approach. I’ve read many strident things. I’m still standing. I’m still showing up. I still know who I am on the page, in words, in line, in a podcast. But it always seems that I may forever be standing on the outside, in the margins, always somehow on a different track.
I also read many beautiful things this week. I linked to several poetry substacks last week. Some of my favorite posts this week were, again, from those writers and artists. Here are a few posts:
“Nostalgia is to live in a past that didn’t exist and anxiety is to live in a future that will not exist. Being present is to exist.” — “The Problem of Time” (Jason McBride,)
“The first type of magic was serendipitous and mysterious, it was made up of moments that led to a frisson of connection and the sense of being a part of the larger pattern of life.” — “Where is Magic?” ((Unkempt), part of an exchange with Laura Pashby on Small Stories)
This beautiful set of panels by Kat Schneider (Pretend I Never Sent You This), noted by Grant Snider. (I looked, but I can’t find the specific post where the panels appear, so I’ve linked to the note. I recommend following both of these artists!)
Thank you for reading along! I always enjoy your comments and invite you to chime in.
Lots of “G” words last week. Clearly, “G” led many to the grotesque, the gothic, and the ghastly. I’m playing it easy with glimmers, glitter, grace, growing, gossamer, and green. Gratitude is a given, of course.
So many of you weave words beautifully in your comments. (I love seeing the poems that sometimes appear.)
“The moonlight hits the lighthouse creating great, giant glimmers. I breathe deeply, and give thanks to the Universe for placing me in this moment to enjoy it.” — Michelle Davies
As I wrap things up this week, there has been incessant bird calling outside. I started to say bird song, but this is not song. While writing, I kept making note of the calling but not really thinking about it. But now, yes, of course. That is a hawk, the sharp mewling sound of a hawk. I am grateful for these trees.
What color parrot comes to mind? What is the context of your parrot memory?
A gratitude from the week? A moment of serendipity?
Binoculars if you are a bird watcher. The last bird you noticed.
What is your color today? (Interpret however you choose.)
What one thing did you draw this week that you loved?
As always, feel free to rearrange, embellish, and add your own flair and whimsy. Feel free to share a joke or a quote or whatever reading this post made you think about.
This song is so often in my head. For many years, I shared playlists every month. I always especially enjoyed the November lists. This song is beautiful at any time.
Jump in in whatever way feels comfortable. If you enjoy the weekly post or know someone who might, please share.
This was a rogue processing moment as I thought about the juxtaposition and about replacing the entire list with just visuals. (The words are much better.)
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Illustrate Your Week — Week 46
The new prompts for Week 46 have been posted.
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