Gratitude

Farm And Corn Field

 

“Over the river and through the woods…” We lived in the city. My grandparents lived in the country, about thirty miles from us. We visited them most Sundays, year round, from the time I was born through high school. Although this is not a picture if their farm, it brings back vivid memories of our Thanksgivings there.

Topping the list of the downside of going to Grandma’s house was the two-hole outhouse (Who ever thought two holes was a good idea?) with pages of the Sunday Supplement covering the walls, spider webs in the dark corners and, well, the odor. When I was little, I had to be convinced that I wouldn’t fall in and nothing would come out of there to bite me in the butt. Because the house was heated by a wood stove in the back room, aided at times by the kitchen stove, the downstairs was warm enough in the winter time with sweaters on, but I froze upstairs, napping under three or four blankets with my clothes on. With the exception of my father and me, the men in my family were very much into sports and cigars. So while they were watching “the game” and the women played cards around the kitchen table, it fell to my dad and occasionally an aunt, to keep my sister and me occupied. And that leads me to the upsides.

My dad took us on walks to the nearby Clermont County Fairgrounds, where we would wander around the empty livestock stalls and climb the steps of the grandstand that overlooked the oval buggy track. In the summertime we would go to the corner market where, out in front, there was a bin where we reached in and fished among the blocks of ice for a bottle of pop.

Of course, at Thanksgiving the main event was the meal. The scene in the dining room was straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Grandma was known for her cooking, so the long table was pulled out even further to accommodate all its leaves, and extensions were added as needed. There could be fifteen or more people seated around the table, passing turkey with stuffing, ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, corn, peas, carrots, cranberries… Then came the pies, always cherry, apple and pumpkin. Years later I realized that she had been making everyone’s favorites.

I took so much for granted when I growing up. I thought everyone did what we did and had what we had on Thanksgiving. Now I’ve grown to respect farmers especially. It took a long while for me to realize that food doesn’t come from grocery stores. I’d like to think it comes from fields like this, planted, nurtured and harvested by people who respect the land and care about the health of the people they will feed. But I understand the “business” of farming is very different. I read and observe that small farms are on the rise and increasingly trending toward more healthy and sustainable practices. And greater numbers of people are supporting them. For all these folks and their initiatives, I am thankful.

Actually, giving thanks has always presented me with a conundrum. The list of things I’m thankful for is so impossibly long, I have to prioritize what I say when we go around the table. This year, my grandmother will be added to the list. But let’s face it—it’s never enough. Words are inadequate in the extreme. Between me and the universe, I say I’m grateful for Everything as it is. And everyone as they are. Even that doesn’t get it.

My daughter, Jennifer Miller, has a blog for parents who are actively supporting kids’ social and emotional development. Her topic this week is also gratitude. I thought I would share two quotes from her site that I thought were especially poignant. For more, visit: <confidentparentsconfidentkids.org> I recommend it, not just because I’m her dad. But because the content is always insightful and practical. She has over 10,000 followers.

From one of Jennifer’s colleagues:

Thankfulness is a frame of mind, both thinking and feeling, of appreciation for the world and your place in it. Research shows grateful people have better physical health, less stress and depression, better sleep and a greater sense of well-being. The Templeton Foundation found that 90% of people say they are grateful but only 52% of women and 44% of men express it on a regular basis.

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.

John F. Kennedy

About This Image

Title: Red Barn And Corn Field

Theme: Gratitude

File #: DC5729

Location: Sabina, OH

I like to photograph after a heavy snowfall. It affords the opportunity to shoot in high key. Particularly exciting is to shoot in bright sunlight when the ground is covered with fresh snow. It’s a challenge in two particular ways. First, it’s a race to shoot while the snow is pristine. And second, all that whiteness tricks the exposure meter whether it’s built in or separate.

Exposure meters interpret what they “see” as middle gray—in order for the image to contain the full range of values from black to white, even in color photographs. That’s what meters are designed to do. So if you point your camera at a field of snow, it will render it gray in the photograph. Of course, this can be fixed in editing now. But that degrades the resolution somewhat. Better instead, on location, to determine the exposure by using a standard photographic Gray Card, or set the camera to “Manual” or “P” for professional mode and point it at something that’s neutral gray. That way, the snow comes out white.

This photograph was made toward the end of the day when I “lost” the light. I was disappointed at the time. But now I think the gray sky with only a hint of blue adds to the sensibility of the cold that day. I was wearing gloves and a hat. Sometimes, when conditions aren’t optimal, it’s a good thing.

NOTE: A selection of my photographs has recently been published in the Fall edition of  “Reflections,” a  journal produced by Yale Divinity School. It’s a free publication. If you would like to receive a copy, the address is Yale Divinity School, 409 Prospect Street, New Haven, CT, 06511. The web site is: <reflections.yale.edu>

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