Discussions with Epona: The gratitude book


 The fields were lush and green after the rains, and the month-old foals were pretending to be grown-up, nibbling on the grass like their mothers, but it was all play, they didn’t really eat. It was just such fun to pretend, and you could always go back to the nipple if you reeeally got hungry. In the meanwhile they were scratching the ground, and busy busy digging their noses in the grass, occasionally startled by a grasshopper or a fly.

Epo-Na and I were walking leisurely side by side, when I casually remarked: ‘You know, I have started to keep a gratitude book.’

‘A what?’

‘A gratitude book.’

‘What is a gratitude book?’

‘Weeell, it is a book in which you write all the things you are grateful for. Or at least for which you should be grateful,’ I added lamely.

‘I am soon going to be seventy years old, and I thought it was time to get a little wiser’, I added, not sure what Epo-Na would think of this. Actually, I wasn’t sure myself.

‘It is only a number’, she said soothingly, ‘don’t hang your wisdom on a number. You are not saying this hoping that I would say ‘tut tut, you are doing fine’, she added accusingly.

Of course that was what I had hoped for secretly.

We walked on in silence, and then Epo-Na asked: ‘what is the first thing you are going to write in your gratitude book?’

‘That I am alive’, I said, ‘isn’t it a strange thing to be alive, that someone, or something or somewhat or somehow made me alive and walking next to you. Isn’t that something to be grateful for, the honour, the privilege, the strangeness of it all?’

‘You are getting wise in your old age,’ laughed Epo-Na.

‘I am not old, you just said so yourself,’ I said crossly.

‘I didn’t say that, I said it was only a number.’ Epo-Na pushed me with her hip so I almost fell over, and then continued: ‘Yes, it is the strangest thing of all, and the one you should be most grateful for, to be alive and walking on this beautiful planet. Everything else is secondary. Maybe I should start a gratitude book myself.’

‘What would you write in it,’ I asked.

‘She looked dreamily about her. ‘I could of course say that I am grateful for all the lush grass, but that is kind of base, don’t you think so?’

Then we both saw the tree. It was standing near the river and its fresh green leaves were sparkling in the sun and dancing in the tiny breeze.

‘The tree,’ we both said at the same time, ‘to be grateful for being allowed to see something so transcendental, so absolutely beautiful and divine as a tree.’

We stood for a long time looking at the tree, and a sense of deep gratitude pervaded every cell of our bodies, every drop of blood that passed through our hearts.

That evening I wrote in my gratitude book: watching the tree together with Epo-Na.

I was not quite sure for which I was more grateful: for watching the tree or for doing so together with Epo-Na. But then, it didn’t really matter.

More of the Gratitude book.


 I had been spending a couple of days at home, looking out over the world from the vantage point of my terrace and dotting down all the things I was grateful for.

Initially it seemed an easy job, but the further I got into it, the longer the list got.

Swallows – lots of them, flying their erratic flight route to catch the mosquitoes, sometime skimming almost over the chair I was sitting in. Their beautiful silhouettes against the electric blue sky while calling to each other.

And then there was the frog in my lily pond. Ah, his song –grrrraaaaa grrrraaaaa grrrraaaaa krrrrrrrr krrrrrrrr krrrrrrrr. And all the frogs in the pond of my neighbour’s house going grrrraaaaa grrrraaaaa grrrraaaaa krrrrrrrr krrrrrrrr krrrrrrrr. An occasional Plop and then silence.

I love ‘my’ frog; I think everyone should have a frog in his or her life to remind us that Life came out of water in some dim pre-pre-pre-historic past, that we are all frogs deep down in our most primitive brains going grrrraaaaa krrrrrrrr and believing that we make sense.

Down in the horse paddock, where the ground is dry and dusty, some birds were having their sand bath – diving into the sand pit, rubbing their bellies and then vigorously shaking their whole bodies before flying off into the trees with loud and enthusiastic calls.

I decided to take a break and go and see how Epo-Na got on with her gratitude book.

She was standing near the small river, nibbling on some juicy grass, and I could easily see that in the end she had decided that grass was number one on her list.

I wanted to ask her a question that had been puzzling me: Should we include flies into the gratitude book?

Epo-Na looked up, swishing her tail furiously to chase the flies away. ‘Definitely not’, she snorted annoyed.

‘But they are here, in the Universe, so they must have some use, or so the whatever that made the Universe thought so’, I retorted.

Epo-Na looked me over ironically: ‘Now you sound like a Zen master. Don’t tell me that you are grateful for the flies?’

‘No, not me,’ I said, ‘but I know someone who is.’

At that moment a frog in the river gave out his long call grrrraaaaa grrrraaaaa grrrraaaaa krrrrrrrr krrrrrrrr krrrrrrrr.

‘See’, I said, and walked away, giggling. I could hear Epo-Na behind me still swishing her tail and snorting.