Thursday, May 26, 2016

Gratitude

Oliver Sacks, Gratitude. Knopf, 2015.


I found this jewel, Gratitude by Olliver Sacks, at Mother Theresa's, one of the dozen or so used goods / charity shops within walking distance of my new place. In perfect condition, with good hand. Does that phrase apply to something as solid as a book with French cover as it does to fabric? Whatever. It feels wonderful. And the simple words inside are so inspirational.

When I moved here, into a condo in Chilliwack, a small city, out of my house in the woods of Hope where I had been happily ensconced for 20 years, I had an unsettling feeling of a kind of "sky burial" high on the top floor, looking at the mountains to the northwest and northeast. A feeling that this will be my last home and, love it as I already do, I don't really want to think of leaving, leaving it, along with the planet. Maybe I'm just missing my friends, and our artsy ritual routines of coffee, lunch, books, walks, Scrabble. Of course, leaving is inevitable. Another 20 good years, I tell myself. My friend Molly left us last September at age 86 or 87. Missing her although I still do, she was a generation ahead of me. I should have 20 more years.

Twenty some years ago, when I turned 45 and was still working, I wandered the halls at the time of my birthday bemoaning "half my life is over" to which my supervisor, bringing me back down to some sort of reality, commented: "I think you're being optimistic." Right. I left soon after. No time to waste.

Oliver Sacks, who was born in England, educated at Oxford and then San Francisco, lived and worked in New York, was 83 when he died last year, happy in the belief that he had lived a good productive life. Work and love, he says. That's what matters. His quiescence (in the sense of calm acceptance, grace) reminds me of words from Raymond Carver, a more local writer who lived a much shorter 50 years. Carver grew up around Yakima and died in 1988 near Port Angeles, mere minutes from here on the Washington State coastline. His "Late Fragment", one of my favourites, says: And did you get what / you wanted from this life, even so? / I did. / And what did you want? / To call myself beloved, to feel myself / beloved on the earth. 

Simplicity and appreciation. Yes. I can't complain either. Or rather, I choose not to. Like Sacks, I feel almost overwhelmed with gratitude, for the beauty in which I have lived, for work which I have relished, for loving and being loved. Twenty more good years.

I finished this little gem in one sitting. I'm going to give it to someone else, as a birthday present. Someone older.

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