Gratefulness lives in our bodies.
And in the corpus of Earth.

It resides there, next to the aorta or in the gray matter in our skulls.
It moves and rushes and sizzles like lightning all over this planet, in all her beings.

oak leaves floating in water.

Beleaf by Katherine Minott

We feel a rush of gratitude in our fiery bellies or in the tingle up our arms.
We bear witness to gratitude painted in the growing pink of sunrise or in the moonlit jewels doing pliés on night-black water.

Sometimes we feel it in the lump that forms in our throats—gratitude moving up from the heart, so substantial that it all but stifles us, choking us up. But we are freed from the constriction as soon as we part our lips to let the gratitude pass through us—out into the ever-needy world—in the form of words, a song, or a kiss.

And though it is as tangible as the bodies of growing, vitally-alive coyotes, or green herons, I am absolutely convinced that gratitude is contagious. Because yesterday when a once-mentor-now-dear-friend literally sobbed out his praiseful appreciation to me, I caught his gratitude—palpably felt it rising into my own mouth—and my arms lifted outward in a broad reach that became an embrace.

Shared gratitude. Contagion. Inheritance.
It’s a germ or a gene. It’s shared, and shareable.

It does not live out there—in the world of circumstances, events, facts, or fiction.

tree rings

Woodstock by Katherine Minott

Gratefulness lives right here (notice my hand placed gently over the left side of my chest).

And here (see my palms buried in icy cold autumn grass, mud stains on digits, knees soaked in bent supplication).

In order to feel it, to cultivate it, to find it within—we must simply attend in presence to what is. Right now. Right here. Abiding in this breath. If you are reading this, if you have breath in your body and another inhalation within you, then there is—indeed—a shining golden nugget of gratefulness just waiting there to be discovered, again.

And if that breath within you guides you to pause in a natural and wild place out of doors, with hands on tree bark, flower, rabbit fur; with eyes on shiny bird feather, crispy leaves, or tracing the dew on a fencepost; with the welcome pungency of humus in your nose or the songbirds’ serenade in your ears … then you will have rediscovered gratitude’s true home.

Jennifer J. Wilhoit, PhD

Jennifer J. Wilhoit, PhD

About the author

Jennifer J. Wilhoit, PhD is a published author, spiritual ecologist, mentor, researcher, educator, consultant, peacemaker, & hospice volunteer. She founded TEALarbor stories through which she compassionately supports people's deep storying processes; she is a partner with the Charter for Compassion. Her writing & work focus on the human/nature relationship: “the inner/outer landscape.” Jennifer thrives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest landscape where she lives.