Saying “thank you” to a tree

It was not a picture-perfect morning. It was gray. And cloudy. The kind of clouds which will likely produce snow flurries. It was cold. The temperature gauge in my car read 37 degrees. My route was very long but it had some pretty good hills and my hamstrings started to ache with the mere thought of those as I walked from my car to the gate. And yet, there was a sense of joy as I began to trot along the road.

“God, I love being outside,” I thought.

My gratitude tree from this morning’s run.

The morning run was not easy and I struggled on some of the hills. I thought of the first time I ran this loop with my friend, Sue. She is fond of talking about “harmonious hills” approaching them by saying, “I love this hill. I love this hill,” despite the fact that the entire climb we are both in agony. Some people need an attack mentality. They need to fight against the hill. They need to struggle. And if that’s the best way for them, I stand here and applaud. For me, the hill is already a struggle. I don’t need to add to it. I get further (and faster) by running with the hill, not against it. Harmoniously. Doesn’t make it any easier. But it does make me happier. And anything which makes me happier, which brings me joy, is a good thing in my book.

After running with the hills, I found a tree for support as I did my post-workout dynamic stretching. As I placed my gloved hands against the bark, I remembered a woman named Ellen whom I met this summer at an outdoors event in Lake George. Every time she used a tree for support on a hike, she said “thank you.” Yes, she thanked the tree. I thought this was amusing. And brilliant. Because even when the sky is dull and the air is cold, even when I’m running slow and struggling to find harmony on the hills, there is gratitude. And if even I fail to find the beauty in the previous 30 minutes, I can be grateful for this tree, which supports all of me without asking for anything in return.

What small things can you find today to be grateful for? What helped you get through your workout today without asking for anything in return? Say thank you. Even, if it’s just in your heart, and see where gratitude can take you.

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