Thankfulness within the shell of a moment |

Thankfulness within the shell of a moment

Open Space
Derek Franz
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Even a sad person surely smiles on occasion. Whether he or she remembers the fact is up to them.

Sometimes I think of myself as a happy person. Other times, as a hopelessly sad person. Too often, my self-opinion is wrapped up in tangible accomplishments. “What have I done lately to earn my keep, my self-love?” is the feeling.

It is a rare thing to find a person who has no desire to progress from where he or she stands at any given moment. Who doesn’t want to advance in their career or ability level, to make tomorrow a better place than today? I am no different.

That’s why Thanksgiving is important. It is important for a soul to take stock of what he has at this very second. Especially in today’s fast-paced tech culture, our society is constantly thinking ahead. Just look at the standards of the modern news cycle, which is now measured by hours and even minutes rather than days.

Yes, thinking ahead is important to survival, but balance is a component that is forgotten about more than it should be. A person who lives in the future can only find happiness there.

There was a day when I did not enjoy my rock climbing vacation in Yosemite National Park as much as I should have. I was preoccupied with breaking into a new grade of technical difficulty. At the time, my limit was 5.11 (on a scale of 5.0 to 5.15, with 5.15 being the hardest). I bemoaned my failure to climb 5.12 without falling. I distinctly remember whining in the car as we drove out of the valley at the end of the trip. These days, my ability maxes out at solid 5.13 and I still belittle myself for what seems to be an inability to succeed at the next grade.

In retrospect, however, the memories I cherish from the Yosemite trip are far removed from my technical performance. I remember sitting on a boulder next to one of my very best friends, overlooking the valley and contemplating how closely the color of the sunset matched that of the fine tequila we were sipping.

Todd is far away now, living in another state with a baby on the way. I don’t get to talk to him often, much less climb. I wish I might have absorbed the full body of those moments more fully.

Maybe that’s why it’s easier for me to make my loved ones a higher priority these days; why I step outside myself while playing with the puppy in the living room to appreciate the fact that one day I’ll look back and miss the days when my dog had so much undying energy.

There are people who understandably struggled to be thankful during yesterday’s holiday. My girlfriend, for example, experienced her first holiday without her brother, who died in July. Making it tougher is that Mike’s second son was born without a father and will never experience a holiday with him. For some people, it is undoubtedly difficult to see beyond the pain and appreciate what they have at present.

Happiness is a subtle emotion. It requires a deliberate awareness to fully appreciate for all that it’s worth – and how small and tangential the keys to it can be.

In his novel, “Zorba the Greek,” Nikos Kazantzakis writes, “When experiencing happiness, we have difficulty in being conscious of it. Only when the happiness is past and we look back on it do we suddenly realize – sometimes with astonishment – how happy we had been.”

The older I get, the more I realize this truth. By practicing some self-awareness, I can at least hold on to such joyous moments a bit longer and deeper. These days, when I reach the top of a rock climb, I try to pause and take in the view, knowing that one day, if I’m lucky, I’ll be too old to pull and maneuver my body to such rare places, which I was fortunate to have experienced at all.

Kazantzakis writes in the following chapter, “Frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine … the sound of the sea. Nothing else. And all that is required to feel that here and now is happiness, is a simple and frugal heart.”

I hope that everyone has such memories of yesterday, whether it be a savored bite of food or the laughter of a loved one. And I hope that we can all get better at raking through the leaves of our daily lives to find the delectable acorns that are the manna for our souls.

I hope your bellies are full this holiday and that you may remember what makes them feel that way. Happy Thanksgiving.

– “Open Space” appears on the second and fourth Friday of the month. Derek Franz writes for the Eagle Valley Enterprise and lives in Glenwood Springs. He can be reached at

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