Gratitude Salted With Fear

Gratitude Salted With Fear November 25, 2020

photo by Nan Lundeen

Guan Yin

Someone oversalted the mashed potatoes this Thanksgiving—way oversalted—with fear. I suspect fear lurks at the base even of those extended families who deny reality and choose to gather around a table, sharing one another’s air during a COVID crisis spiraling out of control.

I find myself struggling to feel gratitude, although at every meal I thank the Goddess:

Dear Goddess,

Thank you for this food and for life, and breath, and Earth, our home. Amen.

At times, I actually feel bad thanking her for breath, knowing that 1.4 million people worldwide and counting have had their breath stolen from them by this pandemic. And I wonder what their families find to feel grateful for—their loved ones probably died in isolation. I’ve often thought that what would make death even slightly bearable for me would be that my loved ones would help me through it. The idea of dying isolated from them terrifies me, for myself and for any fellow human being.

How, then, can I feel gratitude?

I began to understand while I was cutting carrots for juice (insights often come to me when I’m doing something unrelated) that gratitude isn’t about giving thanks for things or for family or even for life and breath. Gratitude is a spiritual practice, a humility. It’s an acknowledgement of a higher power. For me, it’s not acquiescence to a higher power that makes a deal with the Devil to put a good man to the test i.e. Job. It is a sense of compassion—compassion that exists in the Universe outside of us and within each of us, and together is greater than the sum of its parts.

I think, perhaps, to be consistent, if I am going to capitalize the words “Devil,” and “Universe,” Compassion deserves a capital “C.” Do you agree?


Because of my enormous respect for Compassion, which I wish I could better exhibit to myself and others, I have a statue of Guan Yin, the Asian Goddess of Compassion, in my yard. I was out there taking a photo of her this morning, when I heard “chirp, chirp.” I turned and looked. A chickadee was standing on the lip of the bird bath chirping at me. And I felt gratitude.

The water in the bird bath was murky. I thanked him for the reminder to fill the bird bath with fresh water. I am grateful to the chickadee.

I could say a solution to our oversalted mashed potatoes this Thanksgiving is to be thankful for small things, and that would be a wise statement. Yet, I can’t help but think a chickadee is no small thing.

About Nan Lundeen
Nan Lundeen is the author of Black Dirt Days: Poems as Memoir, Gaia’s Cry, The Pantyhose Declarations, and Moo of Writing. Visit her at You can read more about the author here.
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