The Right Side of Grateful

photo source: Orion Magazine
photo source: Orion Magazine

It is the day before Thanksgiving and I am driving. The road flattens and curves like a lazy river. Farmland on both sides, one planted in neat little rows, the other dotted with grazing, black cows. The car is stuffed. Duffle bags and pillows, snow gear, three kids and a dog, enough groceries for a month even though we’re only staying four days. We are on the road to Tahoe.

The hour and a half drive to the halfway point is taking double that. Holiday traffic. Everyone running into one another, tapping each other’s bumpers all in a hurry. Cars pull over on the shoulder. We all stop to stare then carry on. Neil Young sings Harvest Moon and I turn it up, hoping the girls will take notice, soak it in. Appreciate. “Because I’m still in love with you, on this harvest moon…” Last season’s left over harvest flanks both sides of the bridge way as we cross the floodplain that hasn’t flooded in years. Here in California we are used to the snap and crack of the faded dry grass, the crunch of the parched earth underfoot. There is hope though: it rained twice this week and there is water puddling in the muddied tractor ruts.

They still haven’t caught the so-called mastermind behind the Paris attacks. It’s been 10 days. This is what CNN tells me when we stop for a pee break and the big girls pop into a roadside Starbucks on their own. They can do that now, right? I wait anxiously for them to come back while I listen to the likelihood of a catastrophic act of terrorism on American soil: high-ish. What’s more likely, that a pedophile has kidnapped my girls, who I hope would kick and scream bloody murder if anyone tried to touch them, or a full scale Armageddon in Chicago or LA? How can we possibly chase down the endless evil in the world?

Still, there are miracles: the gluten-free pretzels I’m munching as we slowly make way. Snow in the mountains, each flake carved with its very own intricacies. Google maps redirecting me on the fly to avoid an accident that just happened two miles up the road. My girls bouncing up to the car window grinning, holding hot chocolate in their red paper cups. The for-real, full-blown Full Frost Moon rising in the graying sky even as the sun continues it’s descent towards the blood stained horizon just across the fields.

Every once in a while we’re pulled out of our tiny lives to marvel at the vastness of the universe, the miracle of it, really. There hanging in the sky was immutable proof of the earth spinning, the moon too and that sometimes our paths whirl so close to one another that it seems we are within reach. It can all be explained with math and science to a point, a balm for the intellectual mind, but the only explanation for the way my heart thumped at the beauty of it all, the way my whole self expanded to take in this shimmering celestial view is to call it Divine.

The world feels like a very scary place. It’s been hard for me to find the grace in the dark depths of my life but that moon broke me open, shone a light way down deep and put me on the right side of grateful. This is my great fortune: I am not in a capsizing boat struggling to save my clinging children. I am not in a cafe sipping merlot as a bomb goes off. I am not desperately turning into an icy skid across the path of an oncoming truck. Instead, I am driving back roads with names like Fiddyment and Baseline. The sharp, cold smell of snow hangs in the air as we climb up into the mountains. For now I am here, we are here, warm and safe, our way lit up by the lightening bright moon.

This post is part of the Reverb 15 December daily writing challenge, a series of writing prompts through which to reflect on 2015 and move into 2016 with clarity. Today’s prompt is: “When was the last time you stopped to look up at the moon? What did she have to say to you?” I wrote most of this post last week during a two-week online course offered by Jena Schwartz. I love the serendipity of having written something that then connects with what I’m writing and feeling now. 

15 thoughts on “The Right Side of Grateful

  1. Hi Lisa. Found you through Rudri, but I think we were in one of Jena’s classes together! I love this so much. Harvest Moon is one of those songs that gives me chills, that both brings back memories and pulls me right into the present. And the moon- I don’t know, it’s become that thing that calms me, moves me, that I always look for. My daughter’s favorite thing is to point out the moon to me. What a lovely piece. xoxo

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