Since I was a child, I have always been enamored by certain words. They way some of them moved from the back of my throat to the tip my tongue entranced me. I would watch the individual letters on the lined page come together in a delicate script to make something special as the ink bled from the point of my pen. For me, the word “gratitude” has always been one of those words that wraps its arms around you and envelopes you in its warmth. But what is the deeper meaning behind this chain of letters scrawled across the page?
If we play by the rules of semantics, a quick visit to the Oxford English Dictionary tells that that gratitude is a noun, a thing. It is formally defined as “the quality of being thankful”, but what does that actually mean?
It implies a level of appreciation for an act, a person, or a thing, but as an artist and a romantic writer, I love the physical implication that it is a thing that quite literally fills one with thanks. The word itself makes you feel the swell of love that radiates so strongly from the heart center it consumes the mind and body completely.
Beyond that, gratitude is a choice and intention. We choose to be grateful, to let it fill us and warm our hearts, especially during the chill of the holiday season. But it is one of those fickle things that you either have so much you find yourself sharing it with others, or you forget to take a moment to be grateful among the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
As an educator, gratitude was always one of my favorite lessons to teach. I’m not sure if it is the mental image of leaves falling off a tree in North American November, or a deeper symbol in my own mind, but these lessons always manifested as some sort of gratitude tree, where the leaves were labelled with what we found ourselves grateful for.
Looking back on it, this implies gratitude is something we grow over a long period of time. It comes from the very roots that birthed us, ever connected to The Mother and the core that defines us. It is something we cultivate and harvest in times of need. It sustains us through the months when the sun slumbers and we sink into the depth of our own thoughts.
Every year, the projects would look different, but for me, the same people, places, and communities would wind up on my gratitude tree. It was a way to remember where I had come from, but also everything I had cultivated that year and the things I found myself most grateful for were relationships.
I’ve always found myself grateful for the neverending support of my family, the patience of my partner, the lessons of my friends and mentors. However, as I walk the path of life layered with the leaves of gratitude passed, I’ve learned to have gratitude for experiences, even moreso the ones that did not turn out the way I intended.
Even in what felt like some of the emptiest moments of my life, I’ve always been able to find something or someone to be grateful for. It is the beacon that calls to me, the energy within the word that guides me through each step and on to the next. But gratitude, like all journeys, is not a linear one. Sometimes it branches off in various directions, flourishing and reaching new heights, while other times the fragile twigs bend and break in the smallest of winds.
If you take anything away from my own journey with gratitude, please know that at the end of the day, the roots regenerate, the tree wakes from its slumber and is once again reborn. But we have to choose to nourish it. It needs rain and sunlight, rest and pruning, healthy soil and regular tending. When we approach gratitude in this way, it will always find a way to flourish, leaving us full throughout the entire year.
So I ask all of you, what have you cultivated this year that you are thankful for? What fills your heart and keeps you sustained through the coldest parts of the season? What do you choose to be grateful for? I’m grateful that the 13Moons family has become the newest leaf on my tree.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Natalie is an Educator, Intuitive Healer, and Creator that gives voice to the Goddess within through her own Earthly experiences. She has been a visual and written artist for many years and sees creativity as a meditative process that unlocks messages from Spirit and the Ancestors. Her creative pieces are published under the name, Ishva Auset, The Daughter of Stars.