Gratitude comes ‘natural’-ly

A holiday devoted to being thankful nears, so it is a great time to make an assessment of the past year. Living here on a beautiful peninsula flanked by the Olympic Mountains with the Hood Canal on one side and the Puget Sound on the other, our surroundings give us much to be grateful for.

Since November holds the holiday for thankfulness, it is a great time to make an assessment of the past year.

Living here on a beautiful peninsula flanked by the Olympic Mountains, with Hood Canal on one side and Puget Sound on the other, our surroundings give us much to be grateful for.

Days of gray and gloom are looming ahead. Think back to that day you traveled down the road and turned a corner, when the weather turned into a crispy-cold, sunny day. Straight ahead, the mountains rose up to the sky; they were larger than life. You sucked in your breath and pulled off to the side of the road so you wouldn’t steer your car into the ditch.

You couldn’t take your eyes off the mountains.

No matter where we are located, no part of our peninsula is far from these views. It’s easy to forget to appreciate that we live in paradise.

The peninsula has many miles of coastline and waterways. I am grateful for nearly 20 years living in an area where I could take long walks with splendid views. I never tire of sitting on the beach having an impromptu picnic lunch.

I am grateful to know the reason our Apple Tree Cove was named during the Wilkes Expedition in the 1800s. Charles Wilkes thought he saw apple trees in bloom. He didn’t realize that he had observed our Pacific dogwoods (Cornus nuttallii) that grew around the cove. Dogwood Cove would have been a perfect name; however, had he been a botanist we might have ended up with the name Cornus Cove.

Maybe Wilkes gave thanks for the splendor too. Smitten by the region, he wrote, “Nothing can be more striking than the beauty of these waters without a shoal or rock or any danger for the whole length of this Internal Navigation, the finest in the world.” Obviously, his ship didn’t venture too far into the inlet that he misnamed.

I am thankful that at the cove, I can watch the osprey dive for their supper, or spy four or five great blue heron wading in the shallows for theirs.

I am grateful for the little kingfishers with their oversized heads. For years, I would see them perched on the power lines that went through the estuary above the road. When a new bridge went in to restore the estuary to Puget Sound, they removed the overhead power lines.

One day, I spied a kingfisher perched on the rail of the new bridge. I see them regularly now, and am grateful they returned. I love to spot them, high above the water, wings flapping wildly to hover like a hummingbird. Then they fold their wings, plunge into the water, and bring up a fish trapped in their beaks.

I am grateful for our wisdom in restoring habitats in places such as the Apple Tree Cove, the estuary, and Carpenter Creek.

I am most thankful for a climate that makes our region a gardening mecca. We have the ability to grow plants from around the globe and our gardens are richer for it.

I am grateful for the quiet summer nights I’ve enjoyed relaxing outside in the night air. Night fragrances drift through the garden, the flowering tobacco’s (Nicotiana) white flowers glow in the darkness.

I am grateful for the times I can unwind outside surrounded by the heavenly fragrance of the night phloxes (Zaluzianskya capensis). Sometimes called Midnight candy, the scent is better than any commercial aromatherapy you can buy.

Sitting out in the night air, I can hear a distant train traveling on its rails across the water from the mainland, or a seal barking on a beach nearly a mile away. My imagination transports me to an exotic place, yet I am home having this experience. I am grateful for what I can hear, see, and smell in the quiet of the night.

Even when life brings the inevitable low times, we can unpack these moments in our memories. With the Thanksgiving holiday coming soon, for me, November is a good reminder to be thankful every day, and find gratitude in the simple, quiet moments.

Gratitude helps us navigate through the tougher, chaotic times in life. What are you grateful for?

— Debbie Teashon photographs and writes about gardening in the maritime Pacific Northwest. Co-author and photographer of “Gardening for the Homebrewer: Grow and Process Plants for Making Beer, Wine, Gruit, Cider, Perry, and More,” Teashon is also editor and web master of Rainy Side Gardeners.