As I write this essay, visible beyond the window of my working space, 2018s first real wintry weather has arrived in my little corner of the world. Teardrops of rain frozen to silvery icicles fringe the edge of my patio roof and dauntless little birds flit in and out of cubbyholes beneath it, snug and secure crannies in which they are setting up house for the season. Wily squirrels scamper across the top of the fence surrounding the enclosure, their cheeks puffy with walnuts from my tree that they will salt away in secret caches—their wintertime supermarkets.
A particular squirrel never fails to capture my attention. He is an elder among his peers, his girth bloated with the years of his sumptuous diet he enjoys among my vegetation, his coat scraggly, and his magnificent bushy tail of his primary years nearly hairless now. While his friends make of my fence a speedy competition as fast as the Indy 500, he sits quietly and unmoving for long periods on the postern at the entrance of my patio, and he stares at me through my window, or at least it seems to be the case. I fancy that there exists something of a kindred nature in our connection, as if like me he endeavors to acclimate himself to a slower pace of life, to handing over to the younger generations the major responsibilities of their squirrel way of life.
I have christened him “Teddy” after our nation’s former president Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, because to my mind, the two of them are similar in ways. Like Roosevelt, I just bet that Teddy the Squirrel was an alpha male, and that if I could get close enough to him to run my fingers through his fur, I would locate battle scars, and feel the beat of an heroic heart enormous with life’s experiences, and a grand passion for it. But still, I cannot help but wonder if in some deep region of his being he yearns for his youth, or if indeed he really is nestled as perfectly as he appears to be in his current station among his squirrel society?
Winter, and especially the high-holiday season that is winter’s centerpiece, brings with it for me an air of nostalgia, a wistfulness for the Thanksgiving days of old, the days when at the end of a long country lane, the white square farmhouse of my maternal grandparents came into view, and within the walls of the place my large family would soon gather around an immense table groaning with a homegrown Thanksgiving meal. With the elapsing of time, the torch has passed to their sons and daughters, and then to their grandsons and granddaughters, and the work of keeping the traditions of our family alive and well, continues to be handed down to subsequent generations. This year for the first time, my immediate family will gather at the home of my niece Samantha, even though she is one of its youngest members.
Despite my longing for the past, I recognize that my family’s traditions are in good hands, the strong and capable and creative hands of my niece, my two adult children, as well as my younger cousins, and I am grateful. I am also relieved, because like Teddy the Squirrel, I am aware that through God’s grace, I have been gifted with the time and space required to accommodate myself to the task of placing my faith in the young people of my family, and to hunker into the winter of my life, to gather my provisions, as well as to relax into my unbound hours and make the most of them.German intellectual and philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said that “The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.” I would add that the essence of all beautiful life, all great life, is gratitude. American artist Norman Rockwell’s iconic painting “Freedom from Want,” which holds within it an intriguing back story dating to World War II, is the enduring visual symbol of America’s Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Not only do I see in Rockwell’s painting the essence of my childhood high-holiday gatherings, but I also see a spirit of gratitude in it, one that reminds most people who view it to be grateful, too—and yes, to be ever mindful of the faces at our tables that shift over time, and to hold in our hearts the souls whom have departed from them.
You can learn more about Linda Lee Greene at http://booksbylindaleegreene.gallery-llgreene.com/. And while you are at it, take a look at her online art gallery at www.gallery-llgreene.com. You can also find her on social media at the following:
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