book photo

[photo by Comfreak]

Many Octobers ago, I said to myself, “This is as good a time as any.” I pulled out a 5×8 blank book that was stashed among my office supplies, and began “My Book of Blessings.” The first blessing I wrote was “For Christina’s suggestion that I record a daily blessing, Thank You.”

That blessing was written on October 13, 2004. Since then I have recorded four-thousand eight-hundred forty-eight blessings. My third blank book will be filled by the end of this year, and a fourth one is waiting patiently for me to initiate it.

If I had to evacuate my home in an emergency, my three Blessings Books are what I would grab just after my wallet and keys.

I have instructed my friends that, when I lie dying, I want to be read to from my Blessings Books. Just randomly, not in any particular order. I want to be reminded of how good – how blessed – my life has been. And, if I am able, I might want to elaborate on blessings that I remember especially fondly. Mostly, however, there are not connected stories, just a grateful noticing and remembering of something from each day.

These blessings are small, simple, usually just one a day – like,

(#814, 1/4/07) “Saw an owl in flight tonight by full moon. Thank You” and

(#1214, 2/8/08) “Planted a yellow primrose in the rain. Thank You” and

(#1764, 8/11/09) “Saw the Wild Horses sculptures above the Columbia River, again after 20 years. Thank You” and

(#2969, 10/16/12) “Carrot/ginger soup. Thank You” and

(#3130, 10/15/13) “Hundreds of orb webs strung between overhead power lines and illuminated by a fresh coat of fog. Thank You.”

Sometimes I can’t choose just one noticing, and so I record a string of wonderful things. Like

(#4315, 6/6/17) “Morning sun through red poppies, bunnies frolicking, a gourmand deer, spectacular Olympic Mountains, and meals with friends. Thank You.”

And sometimes I even acknowledge the blessing in painful things, like

(#3707, 12/5/15) “Totally exhausted from 16 hours of retreat facilitation work in one day. Nevertheless . . . Thank You” and

(#4566, 2/15/18) “Feeling my heart break over yet more gun violence. May my heartbreak be my prayer. Thank You.”

No blessing is too small to be recorded: (#4430, 9/30/17) “Brown basmati rice. Thank You.” And no blessing is too huge: (#4815, 10/22/18) “Leo died at about 2:00 this afternoon. I am grieving deeply. For his amazing life, Thank You.”

On Thanksgiving Day last week, after the feast, and after the leftovers were divided up and sent home with guests, and after the dishwasher was running, I pulled out my three Blessings Books, and thumbed through them for an hour or so. Then I held them in my hands, placed them over my heart, and whispered, “Oh yes, Thank You, so very much!”

Then I put them back on the shelf, so I’ll know right where they are . . . in case I ever have to evacuate my home in an emergency!

NOTE: POETRY PUBLISHED – “Peacock Journal,” a lovely online literary journal devoted to beauty, is publishing five of my poems in December at . (Unsure yet about exactly which week. But the poems will be held in the journal’s archives over the next year) And stay tuned next month for a pre-publication notice of Mortal Beings, my first book of poetry, to be published by Finishing Line Press.

A friend of mine who’s a rabbi teaches that if you say amen to a blessing, you have said the whole blessing. I loved learning that, because when I worship with Jewish friends and can’t recite the Hebrew, nevertheless I can affirm amen and I get divine credit for having said the whole prayer.

And I like knowing that because even if I have only a second to pay attention to a special moment in my day, I can say amen to that tiny noticing and it’s as if I have comprehended the whole of it.

When Jesus pronounced “amen” in his native Aramaic language, he would have said ah-MEEN, and that’s the way it’s pronounced in Arabic today. I like to pronounce the word AH-men (rather than AY-men) because ah is a sound of contentedness – we can use more of that to lubricate the complicated gears of our world.

Basically amen means “this is true,” “may this continue to be true,” “may it be so.” Or it may be used to say to God, okay, that’s the end of what I have to say, now it’s Your turn.

Amen is pronounced at the end of a Christian hymn or after many biblical psalms, to seal the psalm’s praise or complaint or lament. Amen can be said in joy (“this is wonderful!”) or grief (“I hate this, but nevertheless I trust that all shall – eventually – be well”). It can be repeated as a work song or a long farewell (think Sidney Poitier in Lilies of the Field.) Amen can be danced with glee, or moaned as a two-syllable bittersweet confession that I am very, very confused, I don’t have any other words to use, and I need some guidance here.

When I was a kid fidgeting in church, amen mostly meant the end to one more monotonous part of Sunday morning, and another step closer to my deliverance out into the snow that fell last night. At the dinner table it meant that we could now pass the mashed potatoes and dig in.

As an adult I really like the idea of saying amen to a blessing, even one I don’t understand. I want to be aware of all the moments in my day to which I can say “yes”; and more than that, I can say dozens of amens, acknowledging how many blessings there are, of all different sizes and shapes and sorts. My rabbi friend recommends saying amen to others’ blessings as well, to augment their moments of pleasure and good fortune.

It’s spring here on Whidbey Island, with daffodils and alder catkins and plum blossoms in profusion, birds copulating and building nests, hints that rain may be lessening. It’s a very good time to be aware of yes-moments, the times when we can say amen, when we can affirm and amplify the blessings in our lives. Amen.