Posted by: jeannineatkins | December 9, 2014

Finding Gratitude on a Scratchy Chair

All kinds of art are quests for beauty. Finding something true can blur with making it. But we often work with great messes under our hands. Sometimes we can enjoy the process. Colors are great! Words are cool! Other times we tough it out, though I try to find a kinder voice than a commanding one to keep me at the desk. I remind myself to look for small shiny things along the way. If nothing glows on my page, I’m thankful for the cup of coffee, or a stretching break on the yoga mat behind my desk, or the dog sleeping beside it, who tells me when it’s time to take a walk. There’s a memory of a scene I wrote last week, and seems to hold up. I look into the tulips my husband supplies me, with love.


As we see the nearby world, rough or sweet, so we may see the work on our pages. Sometimes I squirm as I consider the disarray I’ve made and must deal with. Under that itchiness is often a hunger for beauty, though it may be in a plain form. A sturdy five word sentence. Without a verb. Or something more rollicking or baroque. Or a sentence that brings a chapter to a close, since it’s too soon to end a whole book.

Restlessness sometimes takes me to one of the poems in books stacked nearby. Some sure-sounding stanzas may freshen my vision, give me the pleasure of what someone else managed, perhaps from such a fog as the one that hovers over my keyboard. I remember that some kind of beauty is possible, and get back to the soft sound of my fingers on the keys, with the right pinky often stretching right to “delete.”

Gratitude ebbs and flows, like just about everything of value. It may need a nudge if not brute force, but if it doesn’t turn to habit, we can ride it as long as we can. There are big things to be grateful for, but if we can’t get peace all over the world, it can be wise to be glad for what’s closer to our elbows, including this chance to work with words. Yes, tulips help. Every sentence takes faith that this may be the one that may be the lantern in the forest. And it’s a faith that must scramble back after every sentence that breaks it. Belief that we can reach something good isn’t steady, but a wave, perhaps one without much rhythm. So I keep on. I get a word right, then maybe even a little paragraph. Or it’s right enough for now. We don’t have to go for rightness cast in gold. Sand will do. We can like it, quickly but deeply, and let it feed us faith for the next page.



  1. So very beautiful and comforting and encouraging. And I’m impressed by your acrobatic right pinky.

    • Sarah, I’m always happy if you feel encouraged to go on with your gorgeous work. And that deleting pinky gets quite a workout.

  2. *swoons*

    What a wonderful way of putting things, Jeannine. So so lovely…

    • It’s very gratifying when you swoon, Kelly! Thank you.

  3. Jeannine, I love this post so much, I’m copying most of it in my journal. I’ve read it three times, each time turning over the phrases and each time getting more meaning, like examining a quartz crystal.

    • Candice, that makes my day that you found something to love here. But it also makes me wonder if I should write a corollary post on the theme of but-sometimes-life-sucks-and-gratitude-isn’t-around. I’m thinking of you coping with loss in December, a particularly tough month, and hope you are taking it as easy as you possibly can on yourself.

  4. Jeannine, I simply adore this. Your words wrap around me like the coziest quilt. I love the idea of a sentence that may be a lantern in the forest. I also love knowing you love tulips, and that your husband supplies you with them. xox

    • Thank you, Amy. I hope you always have all kinds of lanterns, quilts, and bouquets in your life!

  5. It’s amazing how gratitude for the small things reveals their true value. How beautifully you share your journey with us, Jeannine. Thank you. ❤

    • I like how you put that, Lorraine. And thank you for the thought and heart!

  6. Reading this is like the aroma of balsam, cinnamon and eucalyptus all at once. Restorative!

    • Cathy, what a sweet thing to say. Thank you for putting such fragrance in my mind!

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