It’s fear of the unknown that has brought me here tonight. Because the sky’s gotten too bright and the ocean too deep, and I’m left spinning, too aware of my smallness. Because I’m remembering my high school science class, that I am one of six billion and we are one of trillions of celestial orbs in the universe. And that just leaves me too small tonight, to be anything but afraid. And so I am here.
I don’t know what else is out there, and my pen is out of ink from trying to write down the definite. I don’t know what happens when these eyes stop opening and this heart stops beating, and I don’t know how to know for sure. We call it, here, alive and dead, but I don’t know if that’s right or if we’ve muddled that up- if the dead are dead truly, or more alive than we. I come here tonight because I don’t know.
Because I don’t know how this body is working. I don’t know how I breathe and I don’t know how the air is composed of the medicine that these lungs need. I don’t know what’s making my fingers type and my legs move, my tastebuds distinguish sweet from spice. I don’t know where the thoughts in my head are shelved and how it is we pull them out. And I’m left in fear and awe of this thing called living until I am terrified to take a breath and continue to participate.
One by one, I take my unknowns and my questions and try to add them up. But they are just a waist high pile compared to all I don’t know to un-know. The thought that there is so much I don’t know I don’t know makes my heart race and my head spin, and I want to burn them because they make me small, and perhaps insignificant. And so, with hands open and shaking in fear and frustration, I come here.
In an alternate paradigm, I lay on my back and make shapes out of the clouds. The sky is so big, and the ocean so deep, and I am amazed that it all holds together- that the ocean doesn’t tumble out or the sky fall down, and that I still lay drawing clouds. I am small- so small- I’m surprised I’ve been given life. What a pleasant day I’ve been able to witness in the long history of the earth. A robin flutters from tree to tree and then puffs triumphantly from a solitary branch. I laugh at his pompousness and enjoy the sensation the smile brings to my face. This day, it seems, exists only as enjoyment. So it is thankfulness that has brought me here tonight.
I don’t know what else is out there, but I know the creases of my hands and the way my rosebush grows. I know the earth so firm under my feet still nurtures life and bears fruit. I know the ways the living use their eyes to express a language none of us can speak. I do not know what happens in death but I know this life is so fertile, it cannot be in vain. And I know sorrow that’s deep, only since love is deep, and so I come here because for that, I am thankful.
I don’t know what makes the fireflies light up, but they sure look pretty when they sparkle. And I don’t know what makes people fall in like and in love, but it just makes the days so sweet. I don’t know why there is sickness and loss, unexplainable horrors, but I know that even then the sun still shines and the birds keep singing. I come here tonight because for that, I am thankful.
One by one, I take my blessings and add them up. They, too, are waist high, a tiny pile in all there is to be thankful for. And I am elated, because I realize that were I to make a list of thanks to extend all my days, I would never run out of blessings to enjoy. A hot salty tear runs from my eye to my chin, and I am aware I am enfolded in love. With arms, shaking from joy and full of thanksgiving, I come here.
Anxiety and thankfulness have brought me here to this place, with arms both quaking in fear and embracing with gratitude the extraordinaries of the every day. Two ends of the pendulum, both evoking the same response, and both bringing me here, to you.
Because maybe right here is the only place kind enough to hold me through it all.
** Photo Credit Matthew Genders**