I think Ross Gay’s poem “Thank You” is fitting for Ash Wednesday

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by Andrew Taylor-Troutman

I think Ross Gay’s poem “Thank You” is fitting for Ash Wednesday, February 14, because of his lines echoing the biblical verse about dust to dust, ashes to ashes: Gay wrote, “all you love will turn to dust, / and will meet you there.” This is an acknowledgement of the suffering, loss, and grief that are especially obvious to me this year.

But Gay does not leave us in the dust: “If you find yourself barefoot in the frosty grass…”

Lent is a Christian theological tradition, yet I wonder if a spiritual practice might resonate beyond one specific religion. Many Christians have already decided to give up something for Lent. There is value in simplification.

But Lent can also involve adding something. You might replace something, like doom scrolling on your phone, with prayer or meditation. My mom commits to memorizing a poem.

This year, as in Ross Gay’s poem, I’m going to spend a few minutes every day barefoot outside. My family has a backyard the size of a postage stamp. And it is mainly mud, as the kids and house wolf — I mean, dog — are hard on vegetation.

But there is a lovely patch of clover in the back corner. When the dog is inside, this is the munching ground for the local rabbits. But I think they can wait just a bit for me.

I want to add a small ritual that, literally and figuratively, grounds me in the world of dirt and growing things. One that grounds me in my body in the moment. Whether you curl your toes into the grass or do something completely different, maybe you can find your own rituals or practices that can do the same for you. It need not be elaborate. As in Gay’s poem, “say only, thank you. Thank you.”

This very morning, as I stepped away from the soft carpet of clover, I bent down and watched with admiration at how the tiny stalks sprung back after being relieved of my weight. They taught me something about resiliency. And it even seemed like the clover whispered, “You’re welcome. You’re welcome.”

-Andrew Taylor-Troutman (taylortroutman@yahoo.com)

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