Monday, August 8, 2011

Walking in Gratitude

Highway 8 near the Pine Valley exit

The sun shimmers behind the nearly transparent clouds as I drive into our small town, the unusual humidity in this dry desert-like land drips perspiration between my shoulder blades before ten in the morning.

Living in a small town has its advantages and disadvantages. We stroll across an edge of the meadow that centers our town, rabbits and squirrels disappearing down slim holes in sheer panic, the brush whispering as they pass. Through this meadow we take the short walk to the highway that bisects the town.

On Old Highway 80 nestles the heart of our town of 1200: the county library branch (also known as the hub of the town with its wall of DVDs, its many meetings in the community room, its programs for young and old alike, its computers with Internet access, and its newspapers and magazines, not to mention books), the county park, the gas station/market, the part-time vet, the Sheriff's substation shared with the fire department (with its one paid firefighter and dozens of volunteers who guard our town from fire each autumn), the post office, the charter school, the diner/coffee shop, the realtor, the hairdresser, the community clubhouse, the grocery store, the dentist, the Curves, the motel, the community church, the public elementary school, the "fancy" restaurant, the Lutheran Church, the ice cream/burger stand, and another realtor.

That's it. That's our "downtown," our main thoroughfare.

And we can walk any one of them from our home in five minutes. The post office, the clubhouse, the grocery store, and the motel are within sight of our front porch, the path through the meadow wending its way to Old Highway 80, the highway that was the only road through the backcountry from the Arizona border all the way into San Diego proper until the late 1960s. Now an historic highway, it meanders through many small towns like ours as it travels up the mountain pass then descends into the Anza-Borrego Desert.
Part of this year's Pine Valley Days Parade

We have much to be thankful for in such a small town. Our 41st annual festival, Pine Valley Days, begins with a deep pit barbecue Friday night, then opens the big day, Saturday, with a parade at 9 AM before the July heat sets in. Everyone then descends upon the county park where the crafters ply their wares from booths, air scented with the grilled burgers and hot dogs, the kids begging for the rides and bouncy houses. Our kids even put each other in jail via the Alpine Outlaws, later bailing jailed siblings out, a non-profit fundraiser for Make-A-Wish.

As happens at the town festival nearly every year, a mid-afternoon downpour and thunderstorm sends shoppers, crafters, families, and townsfolk scurrying under any available cover, effectively shutting down the entire booth area. Clearing after thirty minutes, the country-western band strikes up live music again in the gazebo, and families hang out again, little ones asleep in their strollers and toddlers becoming rambunctious and cranky.

Yes, there are disadvantages to living in a small town, such as having to drive thirty miles to a mall or movie theatre, gas prices 50 cents a gallon above stations in the city, iffy produce and high prices in the grocery store, and only two churches from which to choose. But the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages as the kids chase frogs in the park, bike ride to work at the community garden, help elderly neighbors with yard and house work, and join in Chess Day at the library. I love facilitating our eight (or so) writers at our monthly Writers' Workshop meetings and talking books with the librarians.
Tammy Mason's beautiful "book quilt" at our garden booth in the park during Pine Valley Days

A wonderful quilter donated this "book quilt," with original book covers of many classic novels (which I am constantly drooling over--only three of the books I have not read...yet!!) to raffle for the library's benefit; our community garden booth hosted the raffle for the quilt during Pine Valley Days.

That's the kind of small town spirit we're talking about.

So I offer thanks for this place as I continue to count the blessings on my journey to One Thousand Gifts with the Gratitude Community at A Holy Experience, thanking God this day...

601. for small town festivals that bring together neighbors we don't see in the midst of too-busy days

602. for the community garden, growing community spirit as well as organic vegetables (and who made $250 at Pine Valley Days, funds to be reinvested into the garden and community)

603. for our little group of six-to-eight writers in our Writers' Workshop who gather monthly at the library to share our work, offer feedback, and encourage one another

604. for summer thunderstorms bringing much-needed rain and cooler temperatures in the midst of July/August heat

605. for old classmates on Facebook who bring laughter and love to my heart

606. for kids working hard, indoors and out, doing chores that I cannot

607. for possibilities of more lucrative work for Keith

608. for crisp summer nights plummeting into high 30s, cooling our heated house beautifully

609. for pale-pink double roses, blooming in cacophony of color

610. for the photo on my mantel of my great-grandmother as a young mother, her two children reading a book with her, one my grandmother--a delicately-colored image from the 1920s

So, happily ensconced in this small town, nestled into national forest which surrounds on all four sides, I find my heart grateful tonight as kids clamber to bed, groaning at too-early (in their expert opinion) bedtimes, but falling asleep, exhausted, minutes later. The house returns to order and peace as blankets are folded, scattered objects tucked away, laundry brought in to be folded in the fresh mountain sunshine of another summer day in this small mountain town....

And so life goes, made more visible for its counting, the importance of little things notices and catalogued here, and later copied into my deep blue Gratitude Journal.

The journey of gratitude continues, and we walk in it as we stroll across the meadow to return a library book and fetch the day's mail.

With warm regards from this small town,

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