December 6, 2014 8:33:24 PM
FISHTRAP HOLLOW -- I walked out to the little house in the yard that stores my books. From my personal library that techie friends keep telling me is silly and superfluous, I found with no trouble my battered old copy of "Of Mice and Men." Taped and raggedy and dog-eared, it feels in my hands like life.
I reread Steinbeck every now and then to renew my belief that it's the most important American book ever written. Ferguson, Missouri, made me need to read it again right now. The new violence caused by ancient injustices is sad in so many ways that I wanted, needed, to see again in my mind that scene when Crooks lets Lennie sit in his lonely room.
I'm thankful for John Steinbeck's 1937 take on man's inhumanity to man. I'm sorry we haven't all learned more from it.
It's true that life gets harder with each passing year. And yet, as Lucinda Williams wrote in her response to a friend's suicide, this old world still has sweet things we'd miss if life were over. For one, I'd miss hearing what Lucinda might write and sing next.
Lucinda's new album contains one of her finest yet, based on something her poet father said to her in a phone conversation. "The temporary nature of any precious thing/That just makes it, just makes it more precious/But not easier, not easier to lose/To lose somebody as precious as you."
And while her song is about her father, his insight, it's also about your father, and my father, who died a year and a few weeks ago. I'm thankful he was in my life for so long, and that his cobalt-blue marlin is swimming now in the turquoise-green waves of my dining room. I can look at it and imagine how he must have felt that summer's day as he reeled it in.
I'm grateful for full moons on the Mississippi Sound, frosty glazes on the hay field in the hollow, friends who remember I love pumpkins and surprise me with a bounty when I return from a long trip. I remain thankful for an old house with weak floors and strong memories, a branch that never runs dry and a porch that more often than not is filled with music.
I'm thankful for ol' Hank, who wrote everything I'd ever need before he died at age 29, and for a friendship with his daughter. All of my friends make life sweeter, and though I don't always say or show it, my friends mightily matter. All of them.
An artistic new friend named Kathleen McFadden took a photograph she calls "Braydon and Gracie," an exquisite portrait of a boy and his dog, both of them tan-brown like the West Texas dirt on which they sit. The trusting mama dog is draped across the bare legs of the little boy, who looks down at Gracie with the most protective and loving pose I've ever seen.
Why can't we maintain in our lives a child's guileless stance, the pure love of other creatures, great and small, rich and poor, all races and creeds? Why must we learn to hate?
Kathleen's poignant image reminds me of the childlike Lennie, who just wanted to pet the pups, and the temporary nature of any precious thing. And I am thankful, oh, so thankful, that there is such breathless beauty to compete with the ugliness in this sweet old world.
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