John Colson: Amid all this strife, gratitude can help
Hit and Run
I’d been wrestling with my muse for days, unable to come up with a topic for this week. I found myself tired unto exhaustion by our corrupted politics and evil times, worried that this time I might actually have to walk away without sending a column to my editor.
It was at this point that my primary adviser and counselor (my wife) suggested: “Why don’t you write about what you’re grateful for today? Thanksgiving is coming, after all.”
OK, I can give that a shot, though something so potentially upbeat might not strike my habitual readers (few but fanatical, I’m sure) as having come from me at all.
First, I’m grateful for her suggestion, as I usually am when she comes up with an idea for me to pursue.
After more than 30 years of writing this column, I often hit a wall when thinking about where to aim my pen (or, more accurately, my laptop keyboard).
It’s not that there is a dearth of things to write about. Quite the opposite is true, actually, and it is precisely that mind-bending blizzard of possible topics that sometimes leaves me gasping in the intellectual equivalent of a seven-year drought. That, and a sneaking suspicion that I’ve said it all by now and there’s no more to be gained by droning on.
But, I digress.
Gazing out my window, I find myself thankful for our fall weather — cool, even cold nights alternating with warm and clear (or partly cloudy) skies during most days, which allows me a longer motorcycling season than I had expected and permits me a little while longer before I clean out the closets and the storage bins and make the transition from summer gear to winter equipment.
With all the insanity that has infected our national political discourse in the past few years, I am grateful that I live in a small town in the mountains, where electoral madness, murderously intolerant impulses and anti-democratic nastiness are held to a minimum. And where, thankfully, the corrosive effect of money in politics is nearly absent.
Sticking to that theme, I am eternally glad to find myself in a town that values artistic craftsmanship over commerce, recreation over greed, and environmental awareness and activism over exploitative employment, to name just a few of the positive aspects of hanging out in Carbondale, Colorado, along the Roaring Fork River valley on the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains.
I am thankful to live in a little neighborhood on the south side of town, where the keys to my mailbox, my house, my pickup and sundry locks for various purposes could hang for several days in the mailbox without being stolen. I knew I’d misplaced those keys (something I do with increasing frequency in my advancing years and mounting confusion), and kept looking for them in a desultory way, but I remained clueless until a neighbor showed up at my door to ask whether the key rings hanging off the mailbox frame were mine.
I feel blessed to have a valleywide circle of friends and acquaintances with whom I can chat on a street corner, or from neighboring bar stools or lunch counters, and with whom I share a conviction that even if we disagree on some things, the overall tenor of those chats is one of camaraderie and respect.
I am oh, so happy that I live in a place where within a few minutes travel time, whether on foot, by pedal-power or in a motorized vehicle of some sort, I can be deeply ensconced in the woods, moving purposefully down a mountain trail or sublimely strolling along a path beside a river, listening to the conversation the water was having with itself as I entertained dreams and fancies in my head.
I am more than pleased with the variety and frequency of theatrical, musical and literary activities available just about any day in our little corner of the world. Indeed, there are times when I’m frustrated by the incredible number of such offerings, because I can’t possibly get to all of them or be in three different places at once.
Looking further abroad, I am very happy to not be living in a nation where fascistic despots are busily doing their best to deny the rights of the “minorities” of our population, where hate trumps compassion and fairness, where the privileges of the wealthy are the uppermost concern of our ruling tribunals rather than the welfare of the populace at large.
Oh, wait, I actually DO live in a nation of just that sort, and the very name, though uncapitalized, of our chief tormentor and persecutor can be found buried in the above descriptive sentence about his toxic rule.
This is an incomplete list of all I am thankful for, of course. But it at least is one way of saying, I guess, that you simply cannot have everything you desire in the world, and that you’ve got to live with the best and the worst as you navigate your life and do what you can to right the wrongs and unseat the wrong-doers.
Good luck to us all.
John Colson writes for The Aspen Times every Tuesday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.