Karen Brazas: Being thankful for simple pleasures
“When a person loses the ability to take pleasure in the mundane, she has probably put herself in unnecessary danger … One must be prepared to fight for one’s simple pleasures and to defend them against elegance and erudition and all manner of glamorous enticements.” — “Rules of Civility” by Amor Fowles
Quite often when families gather around the Thanksgiving table, a common ritual takes place when each person, in turn, states something for which he or she is thankful. “My family, my friends, my health, my home, the food on this table …”
All worthy comments to be sure. And indeed, one should be thankful for these blessings.
Yet long after the turkey is carved, the potatoes mashed, the pumpkin pie sliced, and the delicious meal consumed, we too often leave the table, return to our lives, and forget to count the simple pleasures that are ours to count every single day.
How often we neglect to consider the mundane, the common, as our own personal gifts. Too often we look to what others have — “gifts” that appear much grander than our own. The multi-million-dollar home, complete with house keeper, gardener, and interior designer, all at the homeowner’s beck and call. A neighbor with a fancy car, or two, or three. A sibling with a bank account so fat it knows no bounds. A friend who cruises in Europe not once but twice, or three times a year. In reality that lifestyle is not what we really want or need. But it becomes our focus when we lose sight of what truly makes us happy.
This Thanksgiving I’m vowing to “take pleasure in the mundane” and to focus on the “simple pleasures” that fill my life.
I’m thankful for the early morning sun peeking out through the clouds, creating starlike sparkles on the clear icy-blue water in the harbor near my home. The grandeur of the long white sailboat sliding silently toward the open sea. The graceful seagulls taking flight, and the tiny shorebirds scampering along the beach, eluding the oncoming wave just in time. The fresh sea breeze playing with our American flag as it flutters and snaps on our roof. The chatter of the children gathering at the bus stop. The big orange bus, reminiscent of my youth, lumbering past our house, ready to load its precious cargo. The “early-bird” surfers, clad in shiny black wetsuits, toting their heavy boards as they head down to the beach. And from the adjacent naval base, at 8 a.m. sharp, our national anthem resounding through the crisp morning air.
I’m thankful for the ritual of coffee and conversation as we plan our day. Chores galore, working together, always a team of two. Not bothered by sandy floors or dew-covered windows, “screen-free” with no flies or mosquitoes to contend with. Picking up toys, games, puzzles, books left scattered throughout the house by two adorable grandchildren, thankful for the precious weekend spent with our little angels, despite the lack of uninterrupted sleep!
I’m thankful for a day filled with projects in our wood shop, crafting items for family and friends. Creating and trouble-shooting ideas and plans, and making a dollar or two here and there as we work side by side. Taking a lunch break, a respite in the midday sunshine, and quitting early or working long into the evening. Our choice. Our schedule.
I’m thankful for the occasional lazy afternoon with nothing on the agenda but a long walk, feeding last night’s leftovers to a flock of squawking seagulls, a bike ride on my beach “cruiser,” or reading a good book and being allowed to doze off in the middle of a chapter without feeling guilty.
I’m thankful for brilliant sunsets … viewed from the rooftop or our favorite bench by the harbor, a glass of wine in hand, to celebrate the end of day. A simple dinner, always by candlelight, while watching the evening news. Cleaning up the kitchen together, debating the offerings on our favorite TV channels. A bite of ice cream or a homemade chocolate chip cookie with a cup of tea. And then calling it a night, snuggling in under a down comforter, being lulled to sleep by the gentle rhythm of the waves, undulating through the cool mist of the nighttime air.
These gifts are far more precious and enduring than anything elegant or glamorous could ever be.
These are the mundane pleasures of my simple life. For these, I am blessed.
Wherever you live, find your gifts … and give thanks today.
Karen Brazas lives in Nevada City and owns a beach house in Channel Islands.
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