by Pat Foran
I can’t stop thanking people.
Can’t stop thanking, period.
I’ve been thanking sounds. Squirrels. Trees. Things.
If for nothing else, thanking them for being here. For existing. In this lifetime.
And I know I know I know I keep thanking you.
I hope it hasn’t been all that weird, this thanking. Hope it hasn’t been weird at all. Been thinking (hoping?) you feel the way I do about gratitude. Since the party, at least.
I’d heard about it secondhand: A thirteen-lined ground squirrel planned to invite a dozen or so friends who’d been supportive over the years, friends who’d been there for her, to a dinner party. To thank them. She’d give each a guest box of guessing games, a cuddle company gift card and Merci chocolates. She’d prepare a special meal and a special raindrop cake for dessert. Spin a special tablecloth out of gold lamé. Crochet special skull caps. Zoom-record messages to each guest, expressing gratitude for a specific quality or idiosyncrasy, or a beautiful moment they’d shared with her. Donate to their favorite charity.
But word got around. Other friends and sort-of-friends of the thirteen-lined ground squirrel wondered if they’d been inadvertently left off the list. No no I’m grateful for all of you, the squirrel said, Ok we’ll be there can we invite people we’re grateful for too? the other friends asked. All right, she said, and a party planner was enlisted. A gratitude specialist. The guest boxes became safe deposit boxes. The special meal became a feast for 4,000. The Zoom messages became introductions to feature-length biopics. Bands were booked, playlists made, parade marshals hired, service pet relief areas established, the guest list scrapped.
No invite needed, the message said on social media. All gratitudinals welcome.
I’m so grateful I decided to go.
I saw beholden booth after beholden booth filled with appreciative party-goers (We’re beholden to you, ground squirrel, beholden, they said), heard gratitude rant after gratitude rant (Thank you, sun! Thank you, moon! Thank you, universe! Thank you, glockenspiel section of the band!).
I’m grateful for all of it.
Especially for you.
I heard you at the Gratitude Party before I saw you.
‘Neath the canopy of night, out from under a waterfall of thank-you note confetti, came a voice. Yours. You were singing. To no one. Just singing.
I’m so grateful for youI’m so grateful for meI’m so grateful for usAnd also for wombats
Something in the repetition, the rote-ness of your tone, this round-robin of thanks, those wombats — how the space between the tones made it a song, made it (to my ears, to my soul) a beating heart. A heart you think you could hold in your hand but is actually cradling you.
Suddenly, so suddenly, this heart of a song hovered over the party like a crazy-quilt eclipse. How it blanketed us gratitudianals — ok, how it blanketed me. Warmed me. Made me feel even better about things. Even more grateful.
I said: That is so beautiful and great. Thank you!
You said: Thank you! You’re so kind! Thank you for listening!
Suddenly, so suddenly, you caught the song’s notes in an imaginary butterfly net that had been included in the guest boxes. Caught them and released them. Freed, the notes darted and danced, and rearranged themselves into a new refrain — a short one, but what a river of a refrain, as you put it.
You said: Think the 59-foot Reprua River on the Black Sea coast. The shortest rush of a river in the world.
I said: Beautiful! Thank you for telling me!
You said: Thank you for seeing thinking hearing feeling…and thanking!
As you were thanking me, a trumpeter swan landed like a little airplane on the short landing strip that was the short river of your song’s new refrain. Its webbed feet for brakes, the swan slowed, skidded, slowed to a stop, issuing a honk of a trumpet of a song of his own.
We said: Thank you for your song!
The trumpeter swan said: Thank YOU!
But I was thanking you. For your song.
How your song and the refrain (refrains, I’m thinking — the possibilities!) it begat was like nothing I’d heard seen felt, yet seemed familiar and true. Like a chorus with an expectation not of something expected, but of that hushed, almost intimate feeling of could be.
I’m so grateful for your song, your song because you heard it, you saw it, you sang it, you shared it. With me. Shared it in a way I could see hear feel it. Shared it so it would unfurl before me, like a river, like a swan. Like an ambient thank-you.
Your song is like ambient everything.
It’s like outcome independence.
It’s like Christmas.
It’s like a passionate goodbye, the way I might look at you, say, and there’d be a softness in my voice, a promise in it — how, no matter how many times I might artfully lose you or you might find new ways to lose me, we know and know and know the promise would be kept.
For me, this is enough. Knowing this. Feeling this.
I love you. For this.
It’s enough. More than enough. To keep me thanking. To keep me grateful.
To keep me.
Thank you for singing me your gratitude song.
I’m so grateful for it.
So grateful for you.
Thank you for being here. For existing in this lifetime.
Pat Foran is grateful for your beautiful heart. His work has appeared in various journals, including Pithead Chapel, HOOT Review and Milk Candy Review. Find him at neutralspaces.co/patforan/ and on Twitter at @pdforan.