KENT WARD

Thankful for things to be thankful for

Posted Nov. 18, 2011, at 1:04 p.m.

Topping most any list of things for which to be thankful as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, I suppose, would be that we are not the turkey about to become the main event on the day’s dinner menu. Unfortunately for the turkey population, only one will be spared by the traditional eleventh-hour presidential decree as the countdown to the Thursday holiday turns serious.

There are many things that merit our gratefulness in this fast-fading year — not the least of which is the extended run of Indian-summerlike weather that has prevailed of late. If the Lord ever made prettier days, He must have kept them to Himself, as my longtime Bangor Daily News stablemate, Tom Hennessey, would say.

In rummaging through my in-basket in search of notes that might serve as prompts in compiling a list of things for which to be thankful, I came across a newspaper clipping concerning an unlucky would-be truck thief in southern California.

Police reported that a lady had encountered the lout as he tried to make off with her pickup truck, and, despite his having a gun, she started talking nonstop. The woman said later that the guy, when he could get a word in edgewise, seemed really irritated at the sorry turn of events.

After the talkative one had complied with the man’s request for a cloth to wipe his fingerprints off the vehicle, he allegedly said, “I can’t believe how this is going. This is like something out of the movies.” Then, presumably to avoid the very real possibility of getting talked to death, he bolted from his tormentor.

I’m guessing that if the thief had taken inventory of things to be grateful for, high on his list would have been the fact that he had the good sense not to take the woman hostage, along with her truck, thereby avoiding getting stuck in a rush-hour traffic jam on the freeway without a cellphone to call 911 for help.

When Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry suffered through a cringe-inducing brain cramp during a recent prime-time television debate and was unable to name the third agency of government that he, as president, would eliminate, most people watching the gaffe likely were thankful they were not in the man’s shoes. Ditto in the case of presidential wannabe Herman Cain, who experienced a similar senior moment, caught on camera, while being interviewed by the editorial board of a Milwaukee newspaper.

And surely I cannot be the only one to express gratitude that my livelihood does not depend upon being able to understand my telephone bill or the “explanation of payments” statements that arrive periodically from the feds and my health insurance company. You could be a clone of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — always the smartest person in the room and not bashful about implying as much — and still not get all of the ins and outs of these things.

But there are, of course, more substantial reasons to count our blessings here in Maine as we approach the holiday: The pleasures of a leisurely back-road drive at the height of the fall foliage season. A whiff of wood smoke on a frosty November morning as raucous neighborhood blue jays scold the homeowner for neglecting to stock the communal bird feeder. Memorable dawns, spectacular sunsets. Northern lights on an evening when they are in serious show-off mode. Nor’easters and blizzards, dog-days heat, wintertime temperatures stuck at four clapboards below normal.

Baked beans and brown bread on a Saturday night, fresh garden peas and salmon on the Fourth of July. Reserved Down Easters and their wry Yankee humor. The County, where anything that can’t be mowed is painted white. The panoramic view of Penobscot Bay from atop Mount Battie in the summertime. The reassuring presence of Mount Katahdin at any time of year, a beacon pointing the way to the corner of Maine where life is as it ought to be.

The haunting wail of a loon on a remote lake. Moose sightings. The storied Haynesville Woods, the bucolic St. John Valley. Sugarloaf USA. New Hampshire in the rearview mirror as you head north.

And the good fortune in getting to live in this great state year-round, even as others would give their first-born child to be able to say the same? Priceless.

BDN columnist Kent Ward lives in Limestone. His email address is maineolddawg@gmail.com.

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