There's no better celebration of any season than the decorated tree adorned with the rich symbolism of nature—my ritual to inform and inspire you in the journey called life.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

simple thanks

A SIMPLE THANKS will do, they say. Saying thank you to the giver for the gifts you receive is always in order. But what if that just doesn't seem like enough? How do you thank the air that we breathe, the blood that runs through our veins, or the abundance of things that sustain our very lives? Such is love. It is painfully obvious that there is a great disparity between the haves and have nots of the world—both in love and life. Yet it always seems that those who have less have the distinct ability to say "thank you" in a way that transcends the obligation to do so. True gratitude is made of love.

A TRUE SENSE of love is necessary to understand what "thank you" actually means. Love seems to be the most elusive, the most misunderstood and the most misused emotion. It's rare that love ever needs words to express itself. It just is. It's the indiscernible truth at the heart of everything that makes life worth living. It is the basis of what drives us forward, what gives us hope and what feeds our soul. Yet, its meaning has been skewed. It has been made into a commodity. But love exists simply to give thanks and really mean it.

THE TREE ABOVE was given to me by my dear friend Peggy Dana as a gift a short while back. And I have had the tiny fruit ornaments that decorate it for as long as I can remember (probably at least 20 years). It is only now that I found a place for them. The variety of grapes, pears, apples and oranges that embellish this simple gift, essentially transform it into a sort of "tree of life," symbolic of the fruits of our labors in life and love. I thought this would be perfect to illustrate the idea behind Thanksgiving this year. Giving thanks is the simplest act of love, but yet the most profound. Embellishing this tree is an act of thanks (love) for selfless friends such as Peggy. She's one of those people in my life that truly understands who I am and of what I am made. And I thank her for just being her loving self. It's as simple as that.

WE ALL HAVE them in our lives. Those people and things for which to be thankful. Every act of love is just that—an intention to give thanks—and we must make a conscious effort to do so. My own mother gave me the ultimate thank you not long before she died. She and I were alone in her hospital room and suddenly we were talking about love. She told me "I loved too much." And then she said to me "that I would never know how much she loved me." I said to her "mother, I do know—you taught me how to love." She floored me by throwing it right back at me, saying "Darryl, you taught me how to love." So, I live with that moment every day of my life, and it gives me hope that I can teach someone else. That's what love (and Thanksgiving) is all about. My mother taught me how to give thanks.

THANKSGIVING has never been the same without her. The feast that she prepared for our family was always the same though. There was the requisite turkey with giblet gravy; her famous sage and cornbread dressing; her cranberry, citrus and pecan congealed salad; homegrown creamed corn (that had been frozen the summer before); green beans; potato salad; yeast rolls; pecan pie; pumpkin pie; German chocolate cake; and a fresh coconut cake. I'm probably leaving a few things out, but you get the idea. I am thankful for the abundance of love that she gave our family. To have her tell me that what she taught me about love is what I taught her in return, is the essence of giving thanks—it's not about getting and giving. It's just the alchemy of love behind the stuff of life which pays it forward.

collecting, photography and styling by Darryl Moland