"T" is for thanksgiving

A friend recently told me about a method she uses during those dark hours in the middle of the night when she awakes full of anxiety and phobias. I often have the same problem — I awake fretting that I’ll get in a terrible car crash the next day, or irrational fears about my health haunt me — so I paid attention when she described her method. She told me she chooses a letter of the alphabet and thinks of things starting with that letter for which she is thankful, and she quickly falls asleep. I immediately liked that idea, but I also put it to use in waking moments because, besides being a form of counting sheep, gratitude is an excellent antidote for feelings of despair and hopelessness.
I started one evening last week while sitting with my goat while he ate hay, and of course I chose “g.” First was goat — who would have guessed? Next I gave thanks for my guitars. My giving thanks, during waking moments, is more than just a list of things. I ponder good memories and the ways those things have enriched my life, and guitars have certainly done so.
I started playing in 1971 and took to the guitar like a pick to strings. I played guitar avidly for many years, backed off when I focused on mandolin, and recently rediscovered my love of it. Words cannot capture the feeling of joy a good guitar session gives me, such as one morning before work last week when I figured out a simple but hypnotic intro played by William Coulter on the bass strings to a medley of Irish tunes.
I also gave thanks for gatherings of family and friends, my Uncle Galen, a mandolin quartet by Georg P. Telemann and garlic. That last may seem an odd thing, but I love garlic and include it in my diet almost every day, and it’s very good for your health.
A couple days later I chose “t.” That one was easy too. I quickly thought of thesauruses (or thesauri) because I love and collect dictionaries, and I gave thanks not just for any old thesaurus but for my (from “Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Thesaurus”) “colossal, enormous, gigantic, huge, immense, mammoth, vast, voluminous, monstrous, monumental, prodigious, stupendous, tremendous; excessive, exorbitant, extravagant, extreme, immoderate, inordinate” trove of thesauri in hardcover and paperback, in several formats, ranging in age from the 1930s to recent vintage. Revising my writing using a good thesaurus, often two, is one of my favorite parts of writing.
T is also for Taylor Guitars. Taylor, headquartered in El Cajon, Calif., has been in the forefront of guitar building innovation since the late 1970s and makes incredible instruments. I am fortunate to own Taylors, and they inspire me to practice because they are such a joy to play. T is for thumb picks, which I use to play the banjo and sometimes the guitar. They are made of plastic or metal, and they provide a brighter, stronger sound than does picking with the thumb itself on the strings, at least at my level of finger-picking.
T is for the Tuscarawas River, which I have followed and canoed for many years in my expeditions as I explored Indian, frontier, Revolutionary War and canal history. The Tuscarawas River valley is a scenic, mostly rural byway that is rich in history, home to Ohio’s only Revolutionary War fort, Fort Laurens; the Ohio and Erie Canal towpath trail; Dover Dam; and Saltwell Western Store, which sells, among other things, Old West clothing reproductions. I have also followed the river dozens of times on my way to Roscoe Village, a 19th-century canal town at the junction of the Tuscarawas and the Walhonding, home to Wildwood Music, Dulcimer Days, and the canal boat Monticello III on which I got married in 1990.
My friend was right. This method works wonders. Whether you need a little lift or you’re enduring a serious trauma, focusing on the positive aspects of your life helps you get through a trying day, and I’m thankful for this thanksgiving technique my friend taught me.

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