Grateful by Nancy Mugele

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Thanksgiving weekend in Chestertown was filled with the warm embrace of family, laughter, and wonderful food, if I do say so myself. Jim and I had two-thirds of our nest at home, plus Kelsy’s boyfriend Steven and their new puppy Otis. Needless to say, the four-month-old boxer labrador rescue was the hit of the weekend.

As is our family tradition we awoke early on Thanksgiving morning to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade while I stuffed the turkey. 92 years strong, this parade definitely heralds the beginning of the holiday season for me. We had a crowd of 15 for dinner and we ate around our new Eastern Shore wormy chestnut farm table, handcrafted by a dear friend. Eating outside on the porch was definitely out of the question this year. With a roaring fire, and 23 candles lovingly lit by my niece Amanda (her job every year), we spent a cozy Thanksgiving evening catching up, sharing memories, and avoiding politics.

While we missed James, who is not able to be home until Christmas, we thought about him on Black Friday when we chose to take REI’s lead and opt outside. (I have never been a fan of shopping on Black Friday, but that is another story.) He would have enjoyed our day as we spent time at Eastern Neck Island National Wildlife Preserve and enjoyed every bit of the crisp, clear, cold day. We walked Otis with beautiful vistas of the Chesapeake Bay as we observed many bird species, including three bald eagles. I was hoping to see Tundra Swan, but it was a little too early. Jim and I will definitely return to see their majesty.

How grateful I am to have a mind and a heart. I have been thinking about Mary Oliver’s poem Messenger for the past week. It started when I was opting outside instead of opting for a shopping mall on Black Friday and continued into the week. The poem’s first line is My work is loving the world. While she goes on to talk about the natural world, a muse for much of her work, I have been thinking about all of the facets of my world, and how they have shifted in the past few years.

I definitely have a newfound appreciation for the natural world and how the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem works since moving to the Chester River. I am astonished by the movement of the river and the richness of the sunset each and every day.  Becoming a part of the Kent School community also fuels my appreciation. The School’s nationally recognized Chesapeake Bay Studies curriculum is unique and relevant as we teach environmental science and sustainability to help our students become stewards and honorable citizens of their world. I especially love when students use my dock and beach for experimentation and analysis.

Chestertown, itself, is an important part of my world now, and I loved walking through town on Small Business Saturday and seeing so many people in the shops despite the rain. Jenna was with me and we bought a few favorites at the Chester River Wine and Cheese Co. for a late afternoon snack before she drove back to Baltimore. We also purchased our new favorite Lodestone Candle holiday scent in She She on High, and spotted Santa Claus drinking coffee inside Dunkin’ after the parade.

As our children have grown and flown, my daily world is anchored by Kent School. I am so honored and humbled by the gift to serve the school. Believing that we are making a difference in the lives of students, and creating tomorrow’s leaders, brings me great joy.

My birthday this week has caused me to feel a bit nostalgic and sentimental. Thankfully, my world will always revolve around Jim and our family, built on a thirty-plus-year foundation of love. Being with our adult children reminds me, again and again, that we do live forever, and will continue to live forever, in the hearts and minds of our loved ones.

Grateful.

“Messenger”

by Mary Oliver

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
         equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
         keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
         astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
         and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
         to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
         that we live forever.

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