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The Cracker Barrel: Gratitude list

As we stand on the threshold of Thanksgiving and prepare to celebrate the bounty of another year, I herewith offer a list of things for which I'm grateful and urge you, dear reader, to compile a list of your own.

1. I am grateful to be alive.

2. I'm grateful to be in good health. (But even if I weren't, I think I'd still be glad to be alive.) I appreciate the opportunity to cultivate and to purchase and to eat nutritious food to support good health.

3. I'm thankful for my family and my friends. This includes a lot of people. We tend to think of ourselves as individuals, standing alone and separate from others, but the truth is that we are defined in largest measure by our relationships with one another.

I have a hard time imagining who I would be without my excellent wife and son and daughter-in-law and grandchildren or minus the steady encouragement of dozens of dear friends. I know I would be someone else entirely had I not had the particular parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters and cousins and neighbors that have shaped and graced my life.

4. I am genuinely glad to be free. By this I do not mean to sound like a knee-jerk patriot. I find many things wrong in America, some of which bother me deeply. But the underlying core of openness and freedom and the right each citizen has to disagree, criticize and work toward change is, to me, precious and life-enhancing.

As a veteran I am proud to have served my country and can only hope that we all, as citizens, will relearn to respect and to cooperate with one another.

5. I'm grateful for drinkable water, breathable air, plenty of trees and lots of elbow room. Having traveled to and lived in other parts of the world, I know that true quality of life is possible only where the earth has been spared from over-meddling by humans.

6. I am thankful for chickadees. And loons. And coyotes and black bears and bluegills. And red pines and tamaracks and birches and popples. And fireflies and frogs and bats and bluebirds. And ospreys and red-tailed hawks and earthworms and bumblebees and hummingbirds and beavers and wild raspberries and dandelions.

7. I appreciate and give thanks for books. To me, a book is an adventure waiting to happen, an instrument eager to be played, a jewel box begging to be opened. I have read a great number of books and have never yet read one that didn't have something in it of value (though I can think of a few that came close).

8. I'm grateful to be able to work and for the tools that make work possible. I give thanks for the hammer and chisel with which I made a career as a stonemason, for the computer on which I write these words, for tractors and shovels and hoes and rakes with which to till the soil, for saws and squares and chisels and chalk lines and levels and pry bars and wrenches and whatnot.

9. I am thankful toward those who have gone before me, who have built the roads I use and the buildings I take for granted, who have taught me to read and write and reason, who have risked and even given their lives to protect the freedom I so cherish.

10. I am grateful for the seasons, for the diversity and exhilaration that they bring, for the sun and the rain and the wind and the snow. And I am grateful for the larger universe of which our earth is such a lovely part and of the mysterious but unmistakable force that guides and informs it all.

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