Special to the Tribune-Star
I sat in the half-light of my old desk lamp a few nights ago, a chilly wind blowing in from the northwest that made me appreciative of my long-sleeved shirt and purring heater. I had come to my cabin for a little quiet, not really much of a departure from the usual state of our house, for our kids are grown and gone, and my wife and I live in a comfortable and mutually imposed peacefulness that is rarely broken by sounds we don’t invite inside.
I just wanted to sit amidst my books and papers and accumulated odds and ends to think and listen to nothing in particular, and that I accomplished. It was after only a few minutes of solitude that I spied a bit of red glass sitting on a window ledge that runs from west to east alongside my desk. With it resides an arrowhead and a chunk of fossilized wood that I found in childhood adventures so long ago that even the memories of them have been worn smooth by time.
There’s a ceramic jar, decorated with green dragonflies, on the ledge too. In it are a hodgepodge of pens and pencils, a few of which I never use, but since they look nice in their repose in the jar, I’ve decided to just leave them where they are.
The talisman in question is polished and nearly oval, and it’s as colorful as the handmade glass cardinal I keep perched on the ledge too. It’s as if it has spent time in a rock tumbler, turned over and over until there’s no hint of a sharp edge. It holds only recent memories, for it was given to me by Carmen Palma, a proper little lady with whom we attend church. Calling it a “Thankful Stone,” Carmen passed a small wicker basket of the glass baubles from pew to pew a few years back, telling those of us at that Sunday morning devotion to pick one of the color and size we wanted. She told us that we should put the “stone” somewhere close at hand so that when we see it we’ll be reminded to be thankful, to be grateful for what and who we have in our lives. I did so, and more than a few times I have looked at that little piece of glass catching the sunlight, and I’ve remembered Carmen’s words, for like most of us, I’m not as appreciative as I should be.
My wife took a red stone too. She placed it on the oak ledge that runs under our kitchen greenhouse window, and she has told me that on occasion, as she washed a pot or pan at the sink, or sliced a bowl of apples or onions, that she noticed the glass sparkling in the sun, and she’s tried to think of something or someone for which she was grateful, a tough chore if you knew just how tired she often is, and how late she works at that spot.
I know that this story comes to you a week or so before Thanksgiving, but I couldn’t help but spread Carmen’s message today, not because I heed it daily myself, but because I so often forget to, grumbling and mumbling about what I don’t own, or where I can’t go, or what I can’t do. I have had a week filled with such frumpiness, prompted, I suppose, by long hours at work and endless chores, a congested head, and cool, cloudy November days that have draped themselves over me like a wet wool blanket.
Taking stock, I have to admit that I have very little to complain about. My family is healthy and happy, and nary a sibling nor offspring, nor even distant cousin, as far as I know, has to give a second thought about being warm or well fed or unemployed. I have a job, my bills are paid, and I know that I’m loved, despite the way I act at times. I know too, that even though there is always a chance of big winds blowing or high water rising or deep snow falling here in this weatherman’s headache we call the Midwest, that I am much better off than so many of those who live along the East Coast, the victims of not one monster storm, but two that have compounded their miseries.
It was quite a leap to make as I rolled the glass over in my palm to that of another story I heard years ago. I have never hiked the sharp, craggy valleys of the Scottish Highlands, except when I’ve read Robert Louis Stevenson or listened to my brother, who visited there once, but I have heard that there is a stone — a much larger and more authentic one than the one that sits on my window sill — at an intersection of two roads along the western shore of Loch Lomond. It was placed there by the soldiers who built it in 1753.
Although the original marker fell into ruin, a replacement has always been in place. Greeting the weary and travel-worn, although more of a tourist attraction now that people motor past on their way to other places, the stone’s inscription reads simply: “Rest and Be Thankful.”
I need to be better at remembering to be thankful, even in the simplest of times: when I am listening to a Copland symphony; when I smell the scent of fallen leaves; when I feel content as I sit with a book and watch the snow fall into my woods; when I am at work; when I hear my son or daughter walk through our back door. Thankful when I think of all who’ve served this country in the military; for the memories of my parents; for the first time I hear frogs calling from the pond over our back hill …
On Thanksgiving Day, I hope I take the time to remember these things, and when the day has passed, I’ll still have that red stone on my window ledge as a reminder to me the rest of the year.
Mike Lunsford can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or c/o the Tribune-Star at PO Box 149, Terre Haute, IN 47808. He’ll be signing his books at Kadel’s Hallmark at North Plaza from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Nov. 24 .