Blessed, for me, is the feeling of gratitude. Being grateful for something doesn’t have to mean that that something is perfect or ready, especially when it comes to loving ourselves or others. Gratitude is the white-knuckle work of being, despite everything. 

This year I’m particularly grateful for stories. I’ve always been an avid reader, sometimes subjecting the person in closest proximity to my reading of a scene aloud. I did this with my favorite memoir a few months ago, reading approximately fifty pages aloud on a car ride home from a camping trip. No wonder my voice was hoarse! Thank you, dear listener. 

But I did it for the joy of connectedness—bearing witness to the map someone has drawn of their life, whether it be real or made up, a map nonetheless. My laughing or crying along with the author was my way of saying me too

There’s a certain brand of magic that happens when one is engrossed in a story. There’s that everlasting anticipation that is mirrored only by the great rapture of the present emotion. Reading is the microcosm of life’s balance: If I don’t get to see the next page, I want you to know that I fully lived and breathed each word, each line, each page, even if I fell apart or lost myself or saved myself along the way. I tried for something, every day. 

The memoir I read, Still Points North by Leigh Newman, was not a new release. In fact, it had been a shelf ornament for years until geographical location suggested that I pick it up and begin. Several weeks after I finished the book, I remembered standing in line at the post office , book in hand, to send my copy to the author for signature. It was a simple act that broke past technology in a beautiful, timeless way and it gave new life to the anticipation of response. 

So, I addressed my envelope and sent the little book to Leigh. When it comes back to me, it’s not what she’ll have written for me inside, it’s knowing that she reached out to touch someone through her work and her touch landed. I am grateful. 

I hope you’re reminded of your own gratitude after spending some time with the stories within this issue. They sure make me dig deep to unearth the stuff that matters most. 

 

ON THE COVER

Fall foliage paints the perfect scene over the Rattlesnake River. Photography Pamela Dunn-Parrish