Our little black dog, Carl, bolts down the riverbank, skidding through dust into mud. His whole body is taut with joy–his entire being giving thanks for creation. Lucie and I make are way down the precarious incline, holding on to footing and dignity.
On the shoreline we turn to the left and see, a ways down, the reason I brought my daughter here. The secret swing.
My wife and I found it a few weeks back. We thought then may be the last time the weather would allow this adventure. Now, into October, the sun has warmed the air to a summery gold. We swing into and out of the evening.
Some anonymous contributor built the swing. Now, without them, it offers up a valley full of thanksgiving. The leaves shine bright yellow and the sun throws a glowing streak across the river. The river holds the trees upside down, rippled by the wind. We soak it all in from our man-made perch, as close as we may come to the effortless gratitude of Carl the bounding dog.
It is notable that none of this cost us a penny.
You are what you plant.
In our consumer culture, you are what you eat. With food, this is obvious as our health or sickness reflect. But if we swap the word eat for 'consume', the truth holds. Everything we consume shapes us. From foods to films to faith or fear.
But perhaps what enters us does not mean so much as what leaves us. What we offer up.
We are shaped by everything we plant. Like gratitude.
You are what you plant. This is thanks-living. A life of gratitude means so much more than saying thanks. We live thanks, by humbly realizing that 'every good and perfect gift comes from God'. Directly, like the sunrise at the rivers edge or mediated through the ingenuity and hard work of our brothers and sisters, like the swing.
We live thanks by giving back. We eat the fruit and then plant the seeds, trusting the good earth to multiply our meager offering. Realizing by some good grace we are called into this miracle. Our small part matters.
Consumption is a closed system of subtraction. Thanks-living is an open system of multiplication.
In gratitude, you are what you plant, and what you plant gets multiplied. Not by you, and that is how thanksgiving widens.
The harvest you are hoping for reveals your true heart. What you give back reveals who you are. But it doesn't stop with you. My actions are seeds. Flowers or fruit or weeds or poison. Those seeds make their way through the community. I plant seeds of blessing or cursing.
The words I speak are seeds planted into the hearers. The hours I spend with friends and family. The way I trade my time.
My life leaves a wake. Even by accident.
After a few moments on the swing, my daughter and I venture further. We return to the forking path and take a right this time.
In this direction, we discover ugliness instead of beauty. Here is some post-apocalyptic wasteland. We find tires and rusted metal. Washed up maybe? I turn around to see the rough cut valley wall. A single story cliff exposing the guts of the earth. Wires and cable and trash protrude from the wall like climbing holds. The largest holds are tires, partly exposed. Tires enmeshed with the earth. A tangle of tires marring this magic hour.
These tires, with an intention or otherwise, were planted here. We look upon the detritus of consumerism, eating at the heart of beauty.
The greatest antidote I know to the deep wart of consumerism is an even deeper gratitude.
Gratitude must be more than felt. Thanks must not only be expressed but practiced. Planted into life's soil. Planted like a swing on a shoreline. Left as a gift, to be enjoyed by all. Good, multiplied.
Most days, see, we are all duped. Two words, lived out, will break the spell. Thank you.