Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

A year of thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, Kids, County Grounds, Walking the dog

In may ways, this has been the most difficult year of my life. Most of the ties that connected me to the life I'd lived for so long were cut -- the ones that tied me to the roles of daughter, mother, and employee. Freedom may be a blessing, but too much of it feels like a curse sometimes.

But even in the darkest days, wonder and gratitude rise, and often from the most unlikely places.

Yesterday afternoon, walking the County Grounds with Idgy and getting the last sunburn of the season, we ran into Dave and the airedales Zoom and Rosie. Dave and I talked about the Packers who had just won, his wife Carole and the horses. Idgy sniffed for prey, Zoom snuggled, and Rosie grumbled. Then the light from the setting sun glanced off of the long coal chute in the distance, and it seemed lit from within. We watched in silence and something like awe.

The energy plant is an odd blight on the landscape most of the time. But a moment of grace transforms it. Or maybe it transforms us, making us able to see in a new light.

One blessing of this year has been more time on those grounds. Quakers say there is that of God in everyone, but I think there is that of dog in everyone, too. And the more we are in touch with both of those aspects of ourselves, the happier we are. We all have a notion about how connecting with God, the divine, or some other form of goodness gives us happiness. The inner dog is ever in the moment, following what leads us, exploding with joy, forgetting harms, unconditional in loving.

Another blessing is that so much of the land is still there. It has avoided the hand of development a little longer.

This year, too, I've had the gift of going back to school. Recovery funds are letting me take the two courses I need to become recertified to teach. There don't seem to be more jobs out there, but it's another door open. And the chance to learn in truly diverse classrooms at UWM is an unexpectedly rich blessing.

Having my daughter at home for the semester has been the biggest blessing of all. She may not need a mother anymore, at least not in the way young children do. But the spaces in my schedule have given me some of the pleasures (and none of the irritations) of being an at-home mom, something I couldn't do when the kids were young. A life not rushed is a more graceful life.

And there's been time to heal the hurts in our relationship. Most of those came about when the kids were young, I was working and going through a divorce, and not handling well all the pressures. I was harsh too much, and I yelled. That hurts kids more than we know. Liz, who is an extraordinary young woman, is being generous in forgiving me.

Happy Thanksgiving to you. I hope your year has been as filled with wonder, learning, love, and forgiveness. If I could sing, which I can't, I'd sing you Mary Chapin Carpenter's Thanksgiving song.

Grateful for each hand we hold
Gathered round this table.
From far and near we travel home,
Blessed that we are able.

Grateful for this sheltered place
With light in every window,
Saying “welcome, welcome, share this feast
Come in away from sorrow.”

Father, mother, daughter, son,
Neighbor, friend and friendless;
All together everyone in the gift of loving-kindness.

Grateful for what’s understood,
And all that is forgiven;
We try so hard to be good,
To lead a life worth living.

Father, mother, daughter, son,
Neighbor, friend, and friendless;
All together everyone, let grateful days be endless.

Grateful for each hand we hold
Gathered round this table.

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