Gratitude comes in various ways. I’ve long made it a late night ritual to give thanks for whatever good things the day, even a difficult one, has brought. That usually involves searching thoughtfully through the day’s experiences and contacts.
But sometimes gratitude sneaks up and seizes my heart with astounding force. It can come from nature – as when I saw my first moonbow (like a rainbow only of moonlight) in the dark winter sky above the Bering Strait in Alaska. I was trudging and climbing over snowdrifts on the way to teach school that morning when another teacher pointed the white arc out to me. I felt touched, privileged, and grateful.
Recently, I’ve seen artists’creations that stunned me in the same way. The National Gallery of Art Museum in Washington, D.C. is a true treasure. Two works exhibited there triggered my gratitude reflex during my visit. One was The Little Dancer, a sculpture by Degas. His depiction of a fourteen year old street girl hoping to dance with the Paris Opera Ballet captures determination, vulnerability, and hop so perfectly that I felt tearful as a gazed up at her.
Later that day I revisited my favorite Rembrandt portrait, An Old Lady with a Book. Her intelligent, reflective face actually did bring tears the first time she caught me unaware.
Every place, every age of human life, holds reasons for gratitude. I live in readiness for the next moment when I will be swept up by a moment that raises me into that happy, helpless state of feeling thankful.