This has been a ‘working holiday’ for me; I’ve been packing boxes and moving them to my new home in preparation for the big move on Monday. On Thanksgiving Day, I enjoyed a few hours of resting and eating with family and then left for my “date with a Doctor,” as I told my sister-in-law, Nancy. She was so curious, so enthusiastic, about this new beau. After I had her going for a while, I told her the whole story; “It’s with the Rug Doctor— the machine I rented to clean the carpet!”
We had a good laugh and then I had to go, loaded down with delicious leftovers that I’d have after my chore was done.
Driving down the familiar country road from Durham to my new place in Apex, a couple of times each day, I felt like I’ve been section-driving parts of a road trip. The fading colors of fall kept me focused on this Season of Thanks. I’ve watched recent segments on the morning shows on the importance of gratitude. I feel like I’m mostly aware of the bounty in my life– in relationships, in having enough, in opportunities. Shifting into auto pilot while driving along Highway 751, it occurred to me that I could use my senses to help me approach gratitude in a new way. I could make a game of it like we did as children to entertain ourselves on long car rides. I remember playing an alphabet game where you found objects outside the car that started with each letter
What came to me was that on my drives back-and-forth to my townhouse, I could list things I was thankful for using the five senses: Sight, Hearing, Touching, Tasting, Smelling.
There are sights for all of us that are very everyday but always bring delight. For example, on my morning walks, there’s sometimes fog over a nearby pond. If I’m lucky, there’s a heron in the edge of the water that’ll fly over and I’ll witness the beautiful blue-gray hues in those outstretched wings. This year, I’m thankful that I had the blessing of visiting Scotland and saw the most spectacular landscape on the Isle of Skye. I may never get to return there so I hold those memories— those strong visual images, close.
What are the everyday and special sights that you’re grateful for this Thanksgiving?
When I think of auditory gratitudes, I think music is the most constant one for me. Especially when going through a rough time, I find solace in music that either accentuates my mood or lifts me out of it. This year, I’ve been fortunate to attend three big concerts and to dance to live and DJ spun songs at my favorite dance clubs. A new sound that I count as a gift was hearing Celtic music throughout the trip to Scotland and Ireland. That included multiple bagpipe players along the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.
What are the ongoing sounds you’re grateful for? Have there been new sounds, new auditory blessings that you have enjoyed this year?
One of my favorite tactile experiences is petting a dog–and in the past, that meant my Golden Retriever. Now, I have to enjoy others’ dogs and fortunately, there have been many in my apartment neighborhood. I find that when I hold things in my hands, when I take the time to touch things, it’s a grounding experience– it makes me feel more present. One example would be touching a tree’s bark; when I just look at it, I can appreciate it’s uniqueness, the colors, shape. But when I touch it with both hands and pay attention, it’s a total experience. Not that I’m being a Tree Hugger, I just understand more of that tree.
When I was in Scotland, I had to touch the heather. Most was past the peak of blooming season but some remained with tiny soft lavender-pink blooms and course, dry stems. There were hillsides that had a pinkish hue where the lavender was more prominent.
What are the everyday tactile experiences that help to ground you? Have there been new experiences in the past year that you’re grateful for this Thanksgiving?
There are many tastes that are daily blessings– like the first sips of my dark roast coffee in the morning, It’s not hard to come up with a lists of foods that bring joy–especially during the holidays. This year on that trip to Scotland, I had my first taste of a dessert that was pure bliss: Sticky Toffee Pudding. My cousin, Kim and I had dinner at the hotel restaurant when we were staying in Edinburgh. The dessert came topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
“This taste like Heaven!” I told Kim when I took my first bite. What a delicious combination of warm toffee sauce, over a date-filled moist cake, with the cold sweetness of the ice cream. I ate slowly and savored every bite.
Last week, I tried my hand at Sticky Toffee Pudding when I had a birthday lunch for my daughter-in-law, Emily. I knew she loved toffee flavor and thought of her when I discovered this dessert on my trip. My entire family loved the toffee pudding and my little grandsons were asking for more.
sticky Toffee Pudding by David Guas. PHOTO BY ANDREW BUI / FOOD STYLING BY CAITLIN HAUGHT BROWN
How about you? What tastes make your daily life better? What new discoveries have your taste buds made that you’re thankful for?
And finally, there’s our sense of smell, that often brings us our most powerful memories–given the location of that center in the brain. I first experienced the impact of smell when I was twenty-two. It was just days after my Daddy’s death, still walking about in a state of shock due to the sudden loss from a heart attack. I smelled cigar smoke and felt a catch in my throat and tears in my eyes. Daddy smoked Tampa Nuggets and cigar smoke meant he was nearby–but he wasn’t. Now that it’s been many years ago, the smell of cigar smoke brings a warm feeling of my father’s protection. There are other powerful scents that bring good memories–like the fragrance of a man’s cologne, especially English Leather–which meant dancing close with a high school crush.
During the Thanksgiving season, the smell of burning leaves or the anticipation of Christmas with the fresh-cut evergreen trees always bring a smile to my face. While in Scotland, we visited a Black House and got to stand near a peat fire. It had a sweet smell that is associated with the barrier islands, the Hebrides where peat is harvested and a big source of fuel–that’s similar to coal.
What are the smells of everyday that add richness to your life? Have you made new discoveries of scents, fragrances, aromas over the past year that you’re grateful for?
I’ve listed and talked about each of our senses and how they can help us be more aware of things we’re thankful for. When I put them all together, as they exist in us at all times, I’m reminded of what I’m most thankful for– my grandsons. Baker is four and Parks is 2. The sight of them running to me when I come in the back door fills me with joy; the sound of them screaming “Grammy!” is the greatest music to my ears; the feel of their little arms hugging me, of holding them tight is the most grounding of all sensations; the taste of left over snack on their cheeks when I kiss each one is sweeter than Sticky Toffee Pudding; the smell of freshly shampooed hair or T-ball sweat is the fragrance of childhood that I wish could last forever before they care about mens’ colognes or dare try smoking a cigar.
Thanks be to God, who gives us all things–including our senses to enjoy and experience life. May we be filled with New Gratitude for each discovery of what makes life rich and helps us through all of our days.
Blessings to you all,
Sticky Toffee Pudding
*I followed recipe but didn’t cut cake part in half–simply popped them out of ramekin and put sauce on top to save time.