Gratitude: Germination, Money, Traffic, Tow Trucks

Gratitude is a practice that grows with use, strengthens as it gets stronger, spills out of the heart and into the world. Reciting the same dry words over and over again does not suffice. I need to write it down, seek out the new, let the words and associations spill out of me, touch each other off, tiny candle-flames coalescing until they’re blazing through the darkness.

As the days grow shorter, the trees flare and drop and reveal their bare architecture, my sap flows downward into silence. Under the snow, summertime slumbers. My mouth tied up with cobwebs and leaf mold, and underneath the filaments that hold the soil together, erupting after rain into white shoots of mushrooms — Indian paintbrush.

Three weeks ago, I struggled through unexpected traffic, late to a too-early appointment, left my car in its spot too long while the ignorant hounded me and I turned them tai-chi-like into pupils, and when the work was done and I could raise my head, I left the building to find my car half-hoisted in the joist of the tow truck.

I knew what came next. You don’t live in a city like Boston for ten years without knowing what came next. I danced the dance, said my lines, pleaded for mercy, failed to weep or gnash my teeth when the greasy man said, “Fifty dollars. Cash.”

Slaves who had become kings. I opened my wallet. No cash, but a card, and he would wait while I went to the ATM. Two twenties and a roll of quarters later, I was free, some buried part of me seething, sure, but the rest of me remembering how, in years past, I’d done the endless drive to industrial waste-yards, paid the fee and then the fee again, seen the greasy kings boasting about their orchards of waiting cars, the kings of trespass towing.

Learned the hard way that keeping my papers in order was not optional. Plodded to the other halls of justice, gave this paper-stamper and then that one my money more money always more money, watched my bank account wither past zero and into the land of deprivation, trying not to worry, not knowing what would keep me in the freezing room I rented with three others in Cambridge, eating lentils and rice in a cold winter porch, trusting in an unknown abundance despite the evidence.

And on that afternoon I saw the fruit of all that suffering.

Fifty dollars is a fortune when you have to it give to the miserable man in his miserable truck, and can be free to drive, comfortable and warm, through the bright autumn afternoon.

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